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 make demands to force you into handing over your money and/or personal details.
Example of scam*
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.
Signs this may be a scam
Pay to release your suspended or compromised TFN.
If a caller claims to be from the ATO and asks you to pay a fine or transfer money to a holding account to release your tax file number (TFN), hang up. Do not pay or give out any information.
Links to ATO or MyGov sites to provide personal info.
Do not give out your personal details such as driver’s licence, Medicare card and bank account or click on any links from emails or SMS that claim to take you to the ATO or MyGov websites.
Tax debt threat of arrest.
Do not pay or give out any information if a caller says you have a tax debt and threatens you with arrest unless you pay immediately. Hang up.
Pay a tax debt via unusual methods.
If someone claims you have a tax debt and demands unusual payments such as gift cards, cryptocurrency or wire transfers, do not pay. Hang up, delete the email or SMS.
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.
What you can do if you
come across a scam
Let us know
- Please report scams or suspicious activity immediately to Westpac at 132 032 or +61 2 9155 7700 (if calling from overseas).
- You can also contact the Australian Tax Office on 1800 008 540, go to their Verify or report a scam page, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Things you should know
* 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.