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What is a Tax scam?

When scammers claim to be from the tax office or other government agencies and threaten you with arrest, legal action or other demands to force you into handing over your money and or personal details.

How they contact you

How they contact you1 %





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Signs this may be a Tax scam

A caller, claiming to be from the ATO, says your tax file number (TFN) has either been suspended or compromised. You must pay a fine or transfer money to a holding account to release it.

  • Hang up. Do not pay or give out any information.

An email or text message asks for personal information or provides a link to the ATO or MyGov websites to enter your personal information such as driver’s licence, Medicare card and bank account details.

  • Do not click on the links or provide any personal information.

A caller says you have a tax debt and may threaten you with arrest unless you pay immediately.

  • Hang up. Do not pay or give out any information.

A person claims you have a tax debt, asks you to pay with in an unusual way such as gift cards, cryptocurrency or wire transfers.

  • Do not pay. Hang up, delete the email or text message.



The Australian government agencies will never threaten you with immediate arrest, demand immediate payment through unusual means over the phone, or send you links to log in or update details for your government account (MyGov, Service Australia). If in doubt, contact your tax agent or the ATO via an independently sourced number.

Remember – Never share your passwords or security codes with anyone. 

Who should I contact and examples of scams

Jane received a call from someone identifying themselves as a representative of the Australian Tax Office. She was told she had a tax debt and if she did not pay it immediately, she would be arrested and go to jail.

Jane was instructed to purchase iTunes gift cards (the caller told her iTunes was an acronym for Income Taxation Underpayment Notarised Electronic system). These would be used to pay her debt.

The caller was very persistent, and the threat sounded legitimate. Jane did not want to be arrested, so she went to her local supermarket as instructed by the representative and purchased $3,000 worth of iTunes gift cards.

She provided the card numbers to the representative as instructed.

This was a scam and Jane unfortunately lost her money. 

Things you should know

1Statistics taken from the October 2020 ATO impersonation scam report

*Examples are based on one or more real scam reports received by Westpac and the ACCC. For privacy purposes real names have not been used.