Many scams prey on people’s greed to entice them into handing over their cold hard cash in return for the promise of a pay day, but in a new twist, fraudsters are claiming to be the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and using fear to manipulate people into payment of fake debt. The current aggressive scam originally reported in Brisbane is now spreading across the country, and is threatening taxpayers with arrest, legal action, and seizure of assets. This simple, yet heinous scam uses high-pressure tactics, where scammers phone people claiming to be the ATO in an attempt to force people to pay fake tax debts over the phone. If you don’t pay up — you will pay the consequence. The scammers claim to have the police on standby and the only way to prevent the warrant for your arrest being executed today is to pay.

This scam has all the key elements:

  • it is tax time
  • the ATO do actually call people to discuss payment of tax debt
  • with 62% of tax debt attributable to small businesses, there’s a fair chance that you do or have had an actual debt
  • and many people fear the ATO and the power the regulator can actually wield

Regarding the scam, Assistant Commissioner Thomas Ryan has said that the ATO would never contact taxpayers about a debt in this threatening manner, and urged people to protect their personal details. He further remarked that:

Generally the ATO would send an SMS or letter to remind you that a payment was due. If we don’t get a response from this we would then call you to discuss payment.

Never send money or give your financial details to someone you don’t know or trust. If you receive a call from the ATO and are concerned about providing information over the phone, you should ask for the caller’s name and phone them back through the ATO’s switchboard on 13 28 69.

If you think they may have fallen victim to a phone scam, you should contact the ATO on 13 28 61 (8.00am–6.00pm, Monday to Friday).

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