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'Nasty' ATO scam targets older West Australians

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West Australians are being targeted by an aggressive tax phone scam that has escalated in recent weeks.

The scam involves fraudsters posing as Australian Taxation Office employees who attempt to force

people to pay a fake tax debt by threatening arrest or further action if they don't comply.

ATO tax fraud scams, like this one, have been doing the rounds in WA.
ATO tax fraud scams, like this one, have been doing the rounds in WA.

Acting commissioner for Consumer Protection WA David Hillyard said the ATO would never make phone calls of this nature and no money or financial details should ever be handed over the phone.

"If you receive an urgent, aggressive call threatening arrest, legal action or deportation over a tax debt, do not be afraid, it is not really the ATO," he said. 

"Scammers may call multiple times or leave voicemail or answerphone messages." 

One WA woman, Maureen, 63, from North Beach, who did not want her last name published, said she was very scared after a scammer telephoned her demanding payment.

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"We live most of the year overseas, so I was very worried that this was real and that we might not be allowed to travel back into Australia or something," she said.

Several older West Australians have told WAtoday about receiving aggressive phone calls from people purporting to be from the ATO and demanding money.

One of the the phone numbers used in the ATO scam was (02) 9099 5772.

When WAtoday telephoned the number on Tuesday, a recorded message played a phone message in a foreign language.

In 2015, an 81-year-old man from Perth's western suburbs lost $110,000 to the same tax rort, the largest loss to this type of scam ever reported in WA. 

He was contacted by scammers saying he would be jailed if a tax debt was not paid immediately. Threats were also made regarding the potential loss of employment of his three children.

This year alone, victims have lost more than $800,000 due to the ATO scam across Australia.

Deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Delia Rickard said residents needed to be alert to the scam.

"This is a really nasty scam that's doing the rounds," she said.

"Scammers are using voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to make these calls, but they usually appear as a Sydney or Melbourne number.

"If the ATO does contact people, they are not threatening and are not harassing you saying that they'll arrest you that day.

"If you get one of these calls and are in doubt, just hang up." 

A majority of scam calls were made during the day, targeting the more vulnerable who were usually at home.

"They usually target older Australians that are home during the day who still have a landline," Ms Rickard said. "It makes them more susceptible to scams."

The ATO scam comes after phone scammers tricked West Australians into buying thousands of dollars worth of iTunes gift card codes in May and June.

Scammers offer cash back to woo victims

Ms Rickard said an increase in scammers contacting consumers via email or telephone telling them they had overpaid on their tax were common around this time of the year.

"Scammers try and get consumers to click through to a site that looks like the ATO and asks for personal information and then they'll ask you to pay a fee to get back the money," she said.

"The ATO or other financial institutions will not ask you to pay for money that is yours so just hit delete on the email."

The advice if you get a call like this is to:
- Put the phone down and don't speak to scammers
- Do not respond to numbers supplied in an automated call
- Delete any messages left on an answerphone or voicemail service
- Speak to someone you trust about the scam call to put your mind at ease

If you are worried you about a suspicious phone call regarding tax, call the ATO on 1800 008 540
 

Alternatively call WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or visit the website