Scammers appear to be targeting migrants with a new scheme that involves impersonating officials from the Australian Tax Office (ATO).
Reports suggest that the scam being conducted is superficially similar to one that surfaced last year, which saw unsuspecting victims duped into making cryptocurrency deposits as payment for fake tax debts.
The scam became so widespread that the ATO’s assistant commissioner, Kath Anderson, issued a warning after the fraudsters’ new con was identified.
“We became aware of scammers seeking payment in Bitcoin last year. So far we have seen over $50,000 paid in Bitcoin to scammers claiming fake ATO tax debts,” Anderson said.
“Cryptocurrency operates in a virtual world, and once the scammers receive payment, it’s virtually impossible to get it back.”
“Scammers are constantly adapting their methods to maximise their chances of picking your pocket. Unfortunately it was inevitable that scammers would target cryptocurrency given its current popularity and anonymity,” she said.
Newly arrived migrants should be particularly on guard, as the scammers may be targeting them due to their limited English skills or unfamiliarity with Australian law. Officials from the ATO will never contact individuals to request payment via cryptocurrencies, although the growing sophistication of these scams has allowed criminals to employ phone numbers that can appear to be genuine.
“In 2017, the ATO received over 80,000 reports of scams, with taxpayers reporting almost $2.4 million lost to scammers claiming to be from the ATO,” Anderson said.
“Over $900,000 worth of iTunes gift cards were reportedly paid to scammers – by almost one third of all victims. We are hoping that the new warnings Apple is including on their gift cards will help people realise the ATO doesn’t accept payment in iTunes cards.”
“Even more concerning at the moment is that more than half of all losses are a result of scammers convincing taxpayers to make deposits or transfers directly into third-party bank accounts. Roughly $1.2 million was reported lost in this way in 2017.”
Individuals who are contacted about such a request should report the callers to local authorities.
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