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How To Spot A Scam

Most people at some stage in their life will encounter a scam that tries to dupe them out of their hard earned cash. They range from the completely obvious to the very sophisticated and convincing.

The ATO have issued warnings to be on the look-out as we enter another tax season. Between July and October 2016 the ATO received 48,084 reports of ATO based scams targeting Australians. This year to date there have been 17,067 reports which is a fivefold increase over same time last year.

With this mind we thought about applying our knowledge and experience to provide some tips to help avoid becoming a victim.

  1. If you are ever contacted directly on the phone and you are unsure of the call, ask for the person’s name and extension number. Once you have this look up the organisation’s phone number and call them back using the extension provided. If the first portion of the number does not match, be very wary.
  2. The scammers will engage in high pressure tactics and threats when you try to delve deeper into their claims. Some comments you can use to test them out are (genuine government employees should not react badly to these):
    • I need to speak to my accountant/lawyer/bookkeeper to check this out and I will call you back.
    • I need to check my records to confirm that I owe the money.
    • Can you please provide the specific details on how the disputed amount arose?
    • Which periods do these amounts relate to?
    • Can you please provide a reference number for this call?
  3. Never give personal details over the phone to someone that has called you. If they are asking for personal details to verify your identity try the tip at point 1.
  4. Never make non-standard type payments. We have heard of instances where people have been directed to get money orders from the Post Office or another where they had to pay their supposed ATO debt with iTunes cards.
  5. Only ever make payments using BPAY, Direct Transfer or at a Post Office with reference numbers and details obtained from your accountant or official ATO correspondence independent of any unsolicited approach (e.g. a BAS Statement or Assessment Notice).
  6. If you are ever unsure that the payment details are correct check them with your accountant, book keeper or directly with the ATO by calling their general enquiry number.
  7. If you are ever threatened with legal action over the phone, write down as much detail as you can and seek legal advice before taking any action to resolve the situation.

If you are ever in doubt remember your Hanrick Curran advisor is only a phone call away.

Please note that this publication is intended to provide a general summary and should not be relied upon as a substitute for personal advice.