The ATO has issued an alert in regards to phone scammers contacting members of the public pretending to be from the ATO or tax agents (including Banks Group) claiming that they have outstanding tax debts. Often they are threatened with arrest if the debt is not paid immediately.
These scammers are using sophisticated call forwarding technology to make it look like the calls are originating from a legitimate ATO or tax agent phone number. This number may appear on caller ID, be left on voicemail messages for call backs or directed by *69 for call back functionality. Scammers do this to make the calls seem more genuine when they call people a second time.
The scam is commonly seen in two forms:
- A robotic-sounding voicemail left on the recipient's phone asking them to call back.
“The reason behind this call is that there is a lawsuit case getting filed under your name. The moment you get this message I want you to get back to me on my department division number.
Now, if we don’t hear from you, we have to issue an arrest warrant under your name and get you arrested so get back to me as soon as possible. Thank you.”
- A three-way conversation between the scammer, the victim, and another scammer impersonating the victim’s tax agent.
This is an example provided by the ATO:
A scammer left a voicemail for Darren, advising they were from the ATO and that Darren would go to jail for five years if he did not contact the ATO due to an outstanding debt. Darren called back on the number provided and was advised to make a payment of $9,000 straight away, as the federal police had been assigned to the case and he would go to jail for five years if the debt wasn’t settled today.
Darren provided the scammer with his tax agent's number who was supposedly then dialled in by the scammer via a three-way conference call. A man by the name of 'Michael Grey' answered claiming he was from the same practice as Darren’s tax agent. Mr Grey said that Darren’s tax agent was in a meeting and not available. 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 machine.
Never call a scammer back on the number they provide. If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a call, hang up and call the ATO on 1800 008 540 or call your tax agent directly on a number you have sourced independently.
For more information, please refer to the ATO’s scam alerts website by clicking here.
If you have already received a suspicious phone call purporting to be from Banks Group, please get in contact with us ASAP via 03 9810 0700 to check if the call was legitimate or a scam.