Fearless and timely scammers using the ATO and even targeting Forensic Accountants!
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. 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 elements; firstly it is tax time, secondly the ATO do call people to discuss payment of tax debt and lastly many people fear the ATO and the power the regulator can wield. To avoid this type of scam be sure to check the caller’s credentials by calling back on a number you have obtained yourself, and most importantly never send money or give your financial details to someone you don’t know or trust.
While writing this article I received a call on my mobile from a blocked number, the person speaking perfect English launched into a spiel—name, company and an apology for the delayed release of their annual publication. Somewhat confused I suggested they had the wrong number without missing a beat the caller said “…oh no I spoke with you a few months ago and you agreed to advertise in our annual publication”. Coincidentally, earlier this year I made a donation to Paramedics Australasia and this caller claimed to be from a company called Emergency Services, so I asked if the call was in connection to that transaction?
This person was very slick in her delivery; she was genuine, warm and friendly and very convincing. Apparently this was not related to my previous transaction and my generosity was going to make a difference and of course my pledge had been relied upon—subtext being someone would potentially miss out on an essential service if I did not follow through with my commitment. Then there was the good news, I was being offered a discount due to the delay in the publication’s release. I just had to fill in some paperwork and confirm my preferred email or fax number.
I asked the caller for a contact number and confirmed the company name my ‘spidey senses’ were tingling as this did not pass the smell test! So I googled the company and there it was, so I did an ABN look up and there it was, so I rang the 1300 number and got the Fines Victoria hotline, which was a legitimate number so maybe I wrote it down wrong? I then phoned the company that I made the original donation to and explained the unusual call. They informed me that my details were listed in a thank you to supporters and scammers were targeting people on the list, hoping to get them to pay a second time.
At this stage I have not received the email with my discount details. But this scam is clever to follow up on a similar and legitimate transaction that I had made, then applying a subtle amount of emotional blackmail plus the added bonus of a discount, making it not a huge leap to think some people will just pay the discounted invoice. The lesson to learn is scammers don’t discriminate (even targeting forensic accountants) and the scams can be very creative with the ultimate goal of separating you from your hard-earned money.