Scam warning: Tax refund, debt scams are trapping some people

The latest scams are
The latest scams are "made to look very real". Photo: Shutterstock

Scam messages promising a tax refund or threatening you with a tax debt are doing the rounds.

A federal government warning was issued on Tuesday to advise people that these messages are not from the Australian Tax Office or myGov.

"We see a surge in scammers impersonating trusted brands like myGov or the Australian Taxation Office [ATO] to trick you into giving them money or personal details," the government's Stay Smart Online page warns.

"These scams can come through as emails, text messages and fake myGov login pages.

"Usually these scams will say you're entitled to a tax refund or that you need to pay a debt.

BE WARNED: The alert issued on Tuesday by the Australian Government's Stay Smart Online site.

BE WARNED: The alert issued on Tuesday by the Australian Government's Stay Smart Online site.

"They are also made to look very real through the sophisticated use of myGov and ATO logos, information and even email addresses which makes it easy for anyone to fall victim."

In June 2019, the ATO received 6444 reports of tax-time scams that impersonated the ATO. Emails with links to fake myGov login pages were the biggest email scam in that month.

Gift card scams also on the rise

In June this year $94,420 in iTunes cards were handed over to scammers, this was followed by Google Play cards worth $27,993.

Stay Smart Online says the trend in scammers demanding 'debt' payments via gift cards was on the rise, with Australians aged 18-44 making the majority of the payments.

"These scam messages often include links that direct you to fake websites or login pages - where you enter your login details and fill out your personal details to claim a 'refund'," the government site warned.

"Scammers can then use this information to commit credit card or tax fraud and identity theft.

"By clicking on these links you also run the risk of downloading malware onto your computer."

How do I stay safe?

  • myGov will never send you a text, email or attachment with links or web addresses that ask you for your login or personal details. Do not click on links in emails or text messages claiming to be from myGov.
  • Always login to your official myGov account to check your tax, lodge your return, and check if you owe a debt or are due a refund. Do this by manually typing into your internet browser.
  • You can also check the status of your tax affairs at any time by calling the ATO on 13 28 61 or contacting your tax agent.
  • Have a strong password on your myGov account and add a security code to your login process to provide an extra layer of protection. This makes it harder for a hacker to get any further if they crack your password.
  • Unfortunately these scams continue well beyond the 30 October deadline for tax returns, as scammers know many people are waiting for a refund or debt owed. It's important to watch out for scams throughout the year.

If you are unsure about the validity of a tax related message or phone call, contact the ATO Scam Hotline on 1800 008 540, or visit the ATO scams page.