Scammers are using the ATO name to fleece thousands of dollars from victims.
Scammers pretending to be from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) is nothing new but in spite of repeated warnings by WA ScamNet and the ATO Western Australians still fall victim and sadly it can often be the more vulnerable members of our community.
In June 2011 Consumer Protection issued a media statement about 80-year-old Edna Sloan from Bunbury who had lost her life savings of $57,000 to overseas scammers, claiming that she was the recipient of a grant of $7,000 from the ATO.
Like most of these scams, at first she was only asked to pay a small amount in comparison to the “tax refund” on offer. The method of payment was the preferred option of all scammers – by international wire transfer.
After the pensioner sent an initial $200 to Amat Saxena of India in order to obtain the “Australian Dermott Grant”, further requests for money came. Hear Edna's story.
The fraudsters had Edna convinced they were the ATO and took advantage of her innocent trusting nature. Edna says she didn’t have any reason to doubt them.
In the 12 months prior to Edna being scammed (June 2010-June 2011) Consumer Protection received more than a thousand reports from Western Australians who’d received calls from scammers claiming to be from the Australian Tax Office, other government departments, banks or official organisations.
The modus operandi was always the same – a large amount of money waiting for them either because they had been overcharged, had a refund waiting to be collected, had been selected for a grant/funding, had a prize from a lottery they hadn’t entered or were the recipients of an inheritance.
The catch is that the scammers ask for a smaller amount of money in fees which needs to be sent first before the larger amount can be released. This is referred to as an ‘advance fee fraud’.
No bank, organisation or government department will ask for money to be sent up front, particularly by wire transfer, before sending you funds that you are legitimately entitled to. Sending money by wire transfer to people you don’t know is hazardous as, once collected, it can’t be recovered or traced.
Don’t forget that cyber criminals use fake websites, bogus emails and send professional-looking documents to make these scams look authentic. They also try to collect personal information in order to access your bank accounts. Guard your personal information closely, change passwords regularly and do not trust website links that are emailed to you – they can be a route to copycat sites.
Read our 2009 media statement on the fair trading phishing scam.
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