Tax return scams involving myGov are on the rise — here’s what the ATO says to watch out for

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When Townsville tax agent Kathy Neville received an out-of-hours call from a confused elderly client, she knew something was amiss.

The woman had disposed of her old mobile phone at a recycling facility but had forgotten to do a factory reset and had received an alert that her tax return had been amended.

“She doesn’t use the internet but she does use her phone to get onto myGov,” Ms Neville said.

Scammers had accessed the woman’s account and fraudulently claimed thousands of dollars from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

“I went into her bank account details on the portal and it wasn’t her bank account anymore,” Ms Neville said.

“I deleted the details, rang the tax office, and told them to stop processing.

“Otherwise, they would have issued in excess of $60,000 to someone else’s bank account.”

‘The keys to your house’

More than 4,600 ATO impersonation scams were flagged in July and August, compared to 2,588 reports in the same period last year.

ATO assistant commissioner Tim Loh said the real number was likely much higher.

“We do know that people do get embarrassed when they fall for scams, but what we would say is this — it can be easy to be scammed if you’re not concentrating, these scammers are becoming more and more sophisticated,” he said.

“Everyone thinks it’s normally the oldies that get scammed the most out of these things, but it’s actually the younger people that we’re seeing get scammed.”

Mr Loh said there were three main scams on the ATO’s radar, most of which hinged on getting access to a person’s myGov account.

“Your myGov details are like the keys to your house,” he said.

“If you give them away to a scammer, it’s like giving away the keys to your house to a stranger and watching them change your locks.”

‘A few dead giveaways’

Mr Loh said scam text messages and emails typically included a hyperlink to a fake myGov website.

“Our best advice there is don’t click on any of those links in those emails and SMS and go directly to the website through your browser,” he said.

“The other scam that we see is through calls – people pretending to be from the ATO – and there’s a few dead giveaways that it is a scammer.

“The first is that their number will project on your phone, but typically the ATO will come up as a no caller ID.

“The second dead giveaway is someone threatening you with jail, arrest or deportation.

“Thirdly is when people try to call you and they use a prerecorded message.

“The ATO will have a real person speak to you on the other side of the phone.”

Ms Neville said fraudsters had initiated a three-way phone conversation with one of her clients while claiming to have someone from her tax agency on the line.

“[My client] knew that was suspicious, so she excused herself and rang me on another line and I told her, ‘No, it’s a scam — there are no men in our office,'” she said.

“They’ll go to any length to try and get your information or money out of you.”

Scammers slide into DMs

Mr Loh said social media scams were on the rise.

“Scammers will sometimes pretend to be people from the ATO, including myself, and they’ll do this on TikTok or Facebook or Instagram,” he said.

“They’ll ask your personal information through direct messages … like your tax file number, your myGov details, or your bank account details.”

Mr Loh said it was important to act quickly if you clicked on a fraudulent hyperlink or mistakenly provided your details to a suspected scammer.

“My best tip is to call your bank to make sure you can lock down your account,” he said.

“The next best thing to do is to call us at the ATO on our dedicated scam hotline.

“We can check things on our end if it’s a tax scam and we can also alert other people about these scams so they don’t get caught out as well.”

(Original ABC Article)