As the tax season approaches, Australians have more reasons to be wary of persons claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
In the four months since July 1, Australians have lost nearly AU$1 million to scammers posing as the tax officials according to the ATO. During the same period where more than 28,000 scam attempts were reported by the tax body, bitcoin has emerged as the scammers’ preferred method of payment. Previously the use of iTunes vouchers was the most popular method but this has now been overtaken by payments made via Bitcoin ATMs.
The tax body is now warning Australians to be extra careful as the due date for taxes (November 21) approaches saying that the ATO would never ask for debts to be settled via a Bitcoin ATM or other ‘unusual methods’.
“Our advice is simple – the ATO will never ask you to make a payment into an ATM or via gift or pre-paid cards such as iTunes and Visa cards, or direct credit to be paid to a personal bank account,” Kath Anderson, an assistant commissioner at the ATO, said in a statement.
As previously reported by CCN, the methods of payment that the ATO accepts includes direct debit, wire transfer, credit or debit cards and the electronic bill payments platform BPAY.
The success of the tax scammers has come despite numerous warnings being sent out by the Australian Taxation Office. In late September, for instance, the tax body issued a scam alert warning against a fraudulent scheme where victims were being threatened with a jail sentence if they did not immediately clear their tax dues.
One incident involved a man named Darren who received a phone call urging him to pay AU$9,000 in tax dues immediately or risk a five-year jail sentence. To make it seem real, the scammers even called Darren’s tax agent where a planted accomplice of the scammer named Mr. Grey confirmed the tax bill.
“A fake conversation was had between Mr. Grey and the original scammer with Mr. Grey agreeing there was an error with Darren’s tax return and that he owed money to the ATO. Mr. Grey told Darren to go to a specific location and pay the $9,000 today. Darren withdrew cash and deposited it into a Bitcoin [ATM] machine,” a statement from the ATO revealed.
Some of the victims that the scammers have been targeting include the vulnerable such as newly-arrived immigrants who are ignorant of local laws and do not want to end up in jail.
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