Being hounded by ATO impersonators? Don’t get scammed this tax season.

Being hounded by ATO impersonators? Don’t get scammed this tax season.

It’s tax time, which means the ATO impersonators are pulling out their bag of tricks to try and scam you. Here are the main scams currently doing the rounds.


It’s fair to say that no one likes getting on the wrong side of the ATO. Sadly this is one of the main reasons why ATO tax scams are so effective.

The other main reason is that these scams are becoming increasingly realistic, sophisticated and tech-savvy.

The scams not only look more convincing. Through the use of modern technology they are also able to target a greater number of people.

Distribution channels such as SMS, robo-calls, and emails are used in conjunction with standard mail to lure victims.

Below we’ve outlined some of the current scams.

Fake tax agent (phone scam)

The scam:

A scammer pretending to be from the ATO sets up a three-way phone call between themselves, the victim and another scammer, who pretends to be an accountant who works at the same practice as the victim’s tax agent (the fake tax agent advises that the victim’s actual tax agent is currently unavailable).

The two scammers then work together to convince the victim that they owe thousands of dollars to the ATO, and that they need to immediately pay off the debt to avoid going to jail.

They’ll then ask the victim to pay using unusual methods of payment such as iTunes, Bitcoin cryptocurrency, store gift cards or pre-paid visa cards.

Avoid being scammed:

Know the status of your tax affairs by checking your details via myGov. Or hang up and independently call your tax agent or the ATO on 1800 008 540.

Extra tip:

A variation of this scam is when the scammer offers a tax refund but advises that you have to provide a personal credit card number for the funds to be deposited into. Instead of the scammer depositing money they’ll instead steal funds from these cards. Never give your credit card details over the phone. Never.

Tax refund notification (SMS scam)

The scam:

Scammers send a text or WhatsApp message informing people them that they are due to receive a tax refund from the ATO. The message contains a link for you to “claim your refund”.

Clicking the link it will direct you to a fake ‘Tax Refund’ form, where it will ask you to fill out your personal information. The scammers then use your information for their criminal needs.

Avoid being scammed:

The ATO doesn’t have an online ‘Tax Refund’ form and will never send you an email or SMS or WhatsApp that asks you to access online services via a hyperlink.

Extra tip:

All online management of your tax affairs should be carried out via your genuine myGov account, which you should only ever access by typing out into your URL address bar.

Imitating ATO phone numbers (phone scam)

The scam:

The ATO is reporting an increased number of scammers contacting people using phone numbers that make it look like they’re genuinely from the ATO.

The numbers that have been appearing most frequently are 6216 1111 and 1800 467 033, but numbers for individual ATO staff members have been used as well.

The scammer will usually claim the potential victim has an outstanding tax debt and threaten them with arrest if it’s not paid immediately. Sometimes voicemail messages are left.

Avoid being scammed:

Remember that the ATO will never threaten you with arrest, demand immediate payment, refuse to allow you to speak with a trusted advisor or tax agent, or present a phone number on caller ID.

Extra tip:

Never call a scammer back on the number they provide. If you are in any doubt about an ATO call, hang up and phone the ATO directly (on 1800 008 540) to check if the call was legitimate.

myGov tax refund notification (email scam)

The scam:

Scammers are emailing people from a fake myGov email address, asking them to fill out an application to receive a tax refund – similar to the SMS scam above.

This scam is currently tricking victims because it displays the ATO’s myGov logo and the links look as though they’ll send you to the myGov website (spoiler alert: they don’t).

Avoid being scammed:

Don’t click anywhere in these emails as they contain malicious links. As mentioned in the SMS scam, the ATO doesn’t have an online ‘Tax Refund’ form. Delete the email, then delete again from your trash.

Extra tip:

If the bottom of the suspected scammer’s email contains a line that says ‘If you feel you received this email by mistake or wish to unsubscribe, click here’, don’t click. It’s most likely another nefarious link.

A recap of the top tips:

  1. The ATO will never send you an SMS or email requesting you to click a link – for any purpose.
  2. Don’t give out any personal information over the phone or via email without first confirming the legitimacy of the request. Nothing is lost by simply calling the ATO first to verify the request.
  3. The ATO does not have ‘Tax Refund Request’ forms.
  4. The ATO will never threaten you with immediate arrest or require you to make immediate payment.
  5. Just because a call, text or email looks or sounds legit, doesn’t mean you have to believe it. Call the ATO directly on 1800 008 540 to verify the information is correct.
  6. Never call back the number provided by the scammer. Always confirm the legitimacy of the number yourself.
  7. The ATO will never attempt to stop you from speaking with your Financial Advisor or Tax Agent.
  8. The ATO will never ask that you pay a tax debt in Bitcoin, using Apple iTunes cards, store gift cards or pre-paid currency cards. Ever.
  9. Make sure you know your myGov login details. Keep them safe and use them to verify what you are being told.
  10. Keep an eye on the ATO’s current ‘Scam Alerts‘ page. It contains all the details of the current scams doing the rounds. The page also shows how you can confirm if an interaction is genuine. You can also verify or report a scam if you receive an attempt from a scammer.

Final word


If you suspect that you’re being scammed, don’t feel obliged to stay on the phone to be polite. Scammers are trained to be aggressive and insistent. You don’t need to listen to them.

Simply hang up the phone straight away (or close the email). Check your myGov account, or directly contact your accountant, financial adviser or the ATO.

If you find yourself faced with a legitimate tax debt, give us a call to discuss your options.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and is presented for informative purposes. It is not intended to constitute financial advice, whether general or personal nor is it intended to imply any recommendation or opinion about a financial product. It does not take into consideration your personal situation and may not be relevant to circumstances. Before taking any action, consider your own particular circumstances and seek professional advice. This content is protected by copyright laws and various other intellectual property laws. It is not to be modified, reproduced or republished without prior written consent.

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