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Types of scams to avoid

With tax time fast approaching, criminals may attempt to take advantage of the end of the financial year to gain access to individuals’ and businesses’ money and information. In 2018, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) received over 81,000 reports of scams, with $2.3 million reported lost. Here are two main types of scams that involve criminals impersonating the ATO.

Tax refund scams

Scammers contact you claiming that you’re owed a tax refund, and that they need your personal details and a processing fee to release your funds.

Tax owed scams

Scammers contact you claiming that you have a tax debt, and demanding that you pay the debt to avoid being arrested. They may ask you to pay by credit card, with a money transfer, with gift cards, or using a pre-paid debit card.

Tips to avoid tax time fraud

Here are our tips to help keep you, your family and friends safe this tax time.

Tips for email and text scams

If you receive an email or text message claiming to be from the ATO asking for personal or financial information, do not respond.

Think before you click or give out any information. Avoid downloading attachments or clicking links in unsolicited emails or suspicious text messages.

Tips for phone call scams

If you receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from the ATO stating that you’re due a refund, threatening you with immediate arrest or stating that you must pay money to receive a tax refund, hang up.

If you receive a call asking for personal or banking information, hang up and call the organisation back using a publicly listed number. For example, NAB’s number is on our website and on the back of NAB cards.

Get a second opinion

It’s important to talk to your family about these scams. Tell them to ‘ask out loud’ for a second opinion from a friend or family member if someone contacts them unexpectedly asking for information.

Know the ATO

Remember that the ATO will never:

  • Ask you to pay your tax debt into a non-ATO bank account, via pre-paid cards, or with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
  • Threaten you with an immediate arrest.
  • Ask you to pay a fee in order to receive a refund.
  • Ask you for personal information such as your Tax File Number (TFN) or credit card number via email or SMS.
  • Ask you to download files from the Internet or open attachments in an unsolicited email.

If you’re concerned or uncertain about the authenticity of a call or message claiming to come from the ATO, hang up, and call them back on 1800 008 540.

For more information on how to protect yourself online at tax time, visit the ATO website.

Helpful resources

Information, resources and tools

Australian Government | Stay Smart Online

Stay Smart Online provides topical, relevant and timely information on how home internet users and small businesses can protect themselves from, and reduce the risk of, cyber security threats such as software vulnerabilities, online scams, malicious activities, and risky online behaviours.

Australian Government | Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC)

The Australian Cyber Security Centre brings cyber security capabilities from across the Australian Government together into a single location. It is the hub for private and public sector collaboration and information-sharing to combat cyber security threats.

An Australian Government initiative | Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN)

Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network is a secure reporting and referral service for cyber crime and online incidents which may be in breach of Australian law. The ACORN website provides a cyber crime reporting mechanism as well as helpful information about cyber crime.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission | Scamwatch

Scamwatch provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams using publications, videos and other online resources.

Australian Government | Office of the eSafety Commissioner

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides online safety education for Australian children and young people, a complaints service for young Australians who experience serious cyberbullying, and address illegal online content.

Australian Government | Attorney-General’s Department

The Attorney-General’s Department website provides helpful information and resources about your rights and protections in regards to identity security, freedom of information and cyber security. The Department has developed a range of resources to assist people protect their identity and recover from the effects of identity crime.

How to identify spam and phishing messages

Be on the lookout for suspicious messages and avoid being a target of cyber-criminals.

How to spot scam phone calls

Learn how to recognise scam calls and keep your details safe when on the phone.

Protect your business from card fraud and payment scams

Learn about card and payment fraud and simple steps you can take to protect your business.

How to protect your website from being compromised

Your website is your face to the world and is a target for cyber criminals 24 hours a day. How safe is it from a cyber attack?

Cyber safety

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