26 September 2023

Dodgy scammers seeking false tax debts

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A spate of phone threats and voicemails from scammers threatening arrest if a fake tax debt is not paid has been reported to Consumer protection.

So far this year WA ScamNet has received 97 reports of tax phone scams with 15 victims losing a total of $188,200.

The highest loss amount by one victim was $60,000. This compares with 2019 figures when $100,450 was lost between 22 victims and a total of 51 reports.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Lanie Chopping said people had reported receiving pre-recorded phone messages claiming to be from a Government Agency such as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Department of Home Affairs or Services Australia.

“The call prompts the receiver to press 1 which takes them through to a person who presents themselves as either working for these Agencies or is a case worker dealing with the matter,” Ms Chopping said.

“The victim is told that their Tax File Number has been linked to fraudulent activity and a warrant has been issued for their arrest or they have an outstanding tax debt they must pay immediately otherwise they will be arrested.”

Ms Chopping said that in some cases, victims were asked what their closest police station was, and they later received a fake call from that police station.

“The scammers spoof or copy the number of the police station so the victim believes the call is legitimate,” she said.

“They are told to go to their bank and withdraw money that will be safeguarded from the fraudulent activity or that they must use this money to pay off their outstanding debt.”

She said once funds were withdrawn, victims were instructed to purchase gift cards and provide the codes on the back to the caller.

“The victim is usually kept on the phone while they are driving to their bank and retailers to purchase the gift cards. On a few occasions the victim has been asked to convert their funds into crypto-currency and send that via an online wallet,” Ms Chopping said.

“Some consumers have been able to work out that it is a scam by calling their local police station directly and confirming that no one at the station had called them about being arrested.”

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