Bitcoin overtakes iTunes vouchers as most common payment demanded by tax scammers


Australians have reported more than 28,000 ‘scam’ attempts to the Australian Tax Office (ATO), since July 1, and paid almost $1 million to scammers, the ATO says.

The agency said payments through Bitcoin ATMs had overtaken iTunes vouchers as the most common method of scam payment reported to the ATO.

A Bitcoin ATM is a method of transferring cash into and out of the cryptocurrency.

“November is a prime time for scammers as they know lots of people have tax bills to pay,” Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said in a statement.

She said scammers were becoming more sophisticated and exploiting vulnerable people, often using aggressive tactics to swindle people out of their money or personal information. They were known to impersonate tax agents too.

“Be wary if someone contacts you demanding payment of a tax debt you didn’t know you owed,” Ms Anderson said.

“Your identifying information like tax file numbers, bank account numbers or your date of birth are the keys to your identity, and can be used by scammers to break into your life if they are compromised,” she added.

The ATO would never ask a taxpayer to make a payment into an ATM or via gift or pre-paid cards such as iTunes and Visa cards, or direct credit to be paid to a personal bank account, Ms Anderson said.

But since July 1, the ATO had seen almost 6,000 taxpayers give away their personal or financial information to scammers through things like phishing scams.

“If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a call, hang up and call us on 1800 008 540,” Ms Anderson said.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has also reported more scams by people impersonating well-known businesses and the police.

In August, the ACCC said its Scamwatch website had recorded a significant spike in remote-access scams, with more than 8,000 reports recorded in 2018 (to August) and losses totalling $4.4 million.

The ACCCs Targeting Scams report said more than 200,000 scam reports were submitted to the ACCC, Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and other federal and state-based government agencies in 2017.

Australians lost $340 million – a $40 million increase compared to 2016, and more than in any other year since the ACCC began reporting on scam activity, it said.

ATOs tips to spot a scammer:

  • Scammers are often aggressive or abusive
  • They will often threaten you with immediate arrest
  • They request payment via unusual methods such as iTunes gift cards or other prepaid cards
  • They request personal security information such as your tax file number or bank details via email or SMS or social media sites
  • They ask for money in order to process a refund or other payment

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