As Tax Time 2018 begins, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is warning taxpayers to be on high alert for tax-related scams.

Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said most Australian taxpayers expect some form of interaction with the ATO during tax time, and scammers take advantage of it to gain money and personal information from victims.

“Scammers are busy all year round, but we always see an increase in activity at tax time. In fact, more than 37,000 scam attempts were reported to the ATO during tax time last year. Although many people were alert and didn’t fall for the scams, hundreds handed over a total of more than $630,000, and thousands handed over their personal details.”

“The most common scam is still the “fake tax debt” phone scam, but we’re seeing an increase in “fake refund” or “refund for a fee” scams, and email and SMS scams enticing people to click a hyperlink, download a file or open an attachment.”

Ms Anderson said knowing how scammers work is important. “Scammers are aiming to make money and use a range of tactics. They may get money up front by pressuring you into paying a fake debt or by tricking you into paying a fee to have a refund released. They may also get you to click on a link to divulge your login, personal or financial information, or to download a file or open an attachment which enables them to access your data. Once they have your data, they can either sell it or use it to impersonate you for financial gain.”

Last year the ATO received over 81,000 scams reports, with more than $2.4 million being paid to scammers and almost 10,000 people providing their personal information. Ms Anderson says that while the ATO will act on reports, the best way to stop the scammers is for the whole community to protect themselves and others, especially the elderly and people who are isolated.

Ms Anderson has some key tips for staying safe this tax time. “Anyone can be a target but you can reduce your chances of being a victim by following some simple steps:

  • Know your tax affairs – you can log into myGov to check your tax affairs at any time, or you can contact your tax agent or the ATO;
  • Guard your personal and financial information – be careful when clicking on links, downloading files or opening attachments. Only give your personal information to people you trust, and try not to share it on social media;
  • If you are unsure about whether a call, text message or email is genuine, don’t reply. Call the ATO on 1800 008 540;
  • Talk to your family and friends about scams. And if you or someone you know has fallen victim to a tax related scam, call the ATO as soon as you can;

“We encourage everyone to play their part in stopping scammers by reporting them to our scam line. Your reports help us refine our approach to dealing with scams, which in turn protects the Australian community.”

The ATO’s dedicated scams line is 1800 008 540.