October 2018 phone scam – imitating ATO switchboard numbers

Similar to previous alerts we have issued in September and March this year, we are seeing an increased number of reports of scammers contacting members of the public pretending to be from the ATO and claiming that there are outstanding tax debts and threatening people with arrest if the debt is not paid immediately.

We are now seeing an evolution of this tactic where the scammers are using technology to make it look like the calls originate from a legitimate ATO phone number. This number may appear on caller ID, be left on voice mail messages for call backs, or directed by *69 for call back functionality. Scammers do this to make the calls seem more valid when they call people a second time. Most frequently the number appearing is 6216 1111, but other numbers have been used as well.

While these scam calls may appear to be from the ATO with a spoofed caller ID, it is important to remember that a legitimate caller from the ATO will never:

  • Threaten you with arrest
  • Demand immediate payment, particularly through unusual means such as bitcoin, pre-paid credit cards or gift cards
  • Refuse to allow you to speak with a trusted advisor or your regular tax agent
  • Or present a phone number on caller ID

Never call a scammer back on the number they provide. If in doubt, independently locate a contact number for the organisation referenced in the call or email. If you are in any doubt about an ATO call hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or report a scam.

See also:

If you receive a call like the example above, you can hang up and call your tax agent independently.

Other indicators to identify a scammer:

  • They will tell you a complaint has been made against you and you are committing tax fraud or claim that you have to pay a debt that you know nothing about.
  • They may threaten immediate arrest or court if you don’t call them back or pay straight away.
  • They won’t provide explanations or allow you to ask questions about the debt and often get aggressive or abusive.
  • They will ask you to pay using unusual methods of payment that the ATO does not use such as iTunes, Bitcoin cryptocurrency, store gift cards or pre-paid visa cards.
  • They may offer a tax refund but you have to provide a personal credit card number for the funds to be deposited into. They don’t deposit money but instead steal funds from these cards without the knowledge of the cardholder. The ATO does not issue refunds to credit cards.

It’s OK to hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or report a scam. Scammers may give you a number to call them on that is not a number from our Phone us page. The top five phone numbers scammers asked people to phone them back on in January were:

  • 02 8005 6533
  • 08 7200 7074
  • 02 6100 3019
  • 07 5641 0370
  • 07 5641 0350

Our clients are telling us they knew it was a scam because:

hey were asking for credit card details to receive a tax refund the offer seemed to be too good to be true – they were not expecting a refund from the ATO they threatened to arrest me and face court action or deportation they kept asking for money when I know I didn’t have a debt with the tax office the scammer would not let me hang up or disconnect the phone.

If you are unsure about a request for information or the validity of an ATO interaction, phone the ATO Scam Hotline on 1800 008 540 or visit ato.gov.au/scams.