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Bitcoin overtakes iTunes vouchers as most common payment demanded by tax scammers

Posted on December 3, 2018

Since 1st July this year, there have been over 28,000 reports of ‘scam’ attempts made to the Australian Tax Office, and the ATO says that around $1million has been paid to fraudsters as a result of their successful scam attempts over the past half year.

Scammers claiming to be from the ATO demanding immediate payment and information about personal security information with the threat of legal action and/or imprisonment is becoming increasingly common. I’m sure everyone has either themselves experienced a scam call or knows someone who has. I, myself, received a call from an unknown number this past Tuesday and was left a voicemail message with quite the textbook scam message – a dodgy computerized voice recording of an American male claiming to be from the ATO, demanding immediate payment of ‘the money I owe’ otherwise I face the risk an arrest warrant being taken out against me if I do not pay up in the next three days… I’m interested to see whether they will really be banging down my door tomorrow morning…

A common payment method requested by tax scammers is prepaid gift cards from places like iTunes, JB HiFi, Target, Kmart etc. This untraceable payment enables scammers to remain under the radar and to avoid getting caught. Strange as this payment request may seem, and although it might be clear to some that the ATO would not request payment from a taxpayer in this way, vulnerable individuals often fall victim to scammers, mainly due to the aggressive and persuasive tactics they use when defrauding people of their money.

More recently, Australians have reported that scammers are requesting payment via Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency – once scammers receive payment, it is virtually impossible to recover it. Given its increasing popularity, the ATO has said that it was inevitable scammers would eventually target cryptocurrency.

Important tips to note:

  • Recent reports of scam attempts has revealed that scammers are now also impersonating tax agents, individuals from well-known businesses and even the police.
  • Not all scam attempts are obvious – they can at times be very convincing – “If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a call, hang up and call 1800 008 540 (scam alerts number)”
  • November is prime time for scammers – tax bills are frequently due at this time

ATO’s tips to spot a scammer:

  • Scammers are often aggressive or abusive
  • They will often threaten you with immediate arrest
  • They request payment via unusual methods such as iTunes gift cards or other prepaid cards
  • They request personal security information such as your tax file number or bank details via email or SMS or other social media sites
  • They ask for money in order to process a refund or other payment

(HCG, Jessica Pearson – 29 Nov 2018)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-14/bitcoin-atms-overtake-itunes-vouchers-as-most-common-scams/10495448

Hall Consulting Group