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Who's really calling? Not the ATO or ACIC

telephoneWho’s really calling? Not the ATO or even the Australian Intelligence Crime Commission

Consumer Protection has received more reports from people who have received telephone calls from scammers pretending to work for government or law enforcement agencies.

In a recent case, a West Australian woman received a voicemail message from a person claiming to work for the Australian Crime Intelligence Commission (ACIC). The caller addressed the woman by her surname and said the ACC had started proceedings against her. The caller requested the woman call back using a telephone number that started with 02.

You may think a call has originated from Australia because it starts with 02 but this is not the case. Scammers sometimes offer Australian telephone numbers in an attempt to add credibility to their claims. They do so by using technology known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to redirect the call back to them overseas. 

Agencies like the ACC will never contact people by phone to deliver information about court proceedings. The ACC has issued a warning about phone scams on its website.

Taxing calls are not the ATO either 

Consumer Protection is continuing to hear reports of people receiving telephone calls from scammers impersonating staff from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).  It is essential for people to know ATO would never contact taxpayers in this aggressive manner. Generally the ATO would send an SMS and or letter to remind people that payment was due. If they don’t get a response then they would call to discuss payment of the outstanding debt.  The ATO have also published a statement on their site warning the public of this scam.

The scammers latest tactic involves leaving an abrupt message warning the recipient there is a criminal case against them for tax evasion/fraud and urging them contact the ATO immediately, using the number provided, otherwise there will be legal consequences. The scammers leave a telephone number that begins with 02 (use of VoIP again). 

Here’s an example of an ATO scam call – the automated message is left on people’s answerphones if they do not pick-up.

The ATO will not make these sorts of calls. The ATO would never contact people in such an aggressive and demanding way.  They certainly wouldn’t threaten jail or arrest if you couldn’t pay when contacted. Nor would they demand people load money onto a prepay card at the post office.

The scammers will be ask people to pay money; usually by wire transfer e.g. Western Union or Moneygram, possible by an electronic voucher such as Ukash or even by bank transfer. In the case of bank transfers the scammers will either be using accounts opened with stolen identities or they will be using a money mule who thinks the money is being put into their account for another reason.

Our top tips to avoid these phone scams

The ATO suggests three simple steps to check if you have any concerns or suspicions about the people you are dealing with:

  1. Firstly, confirm the caller’s name and title and why they are calling.
  2. Secondly, call the ATO switchboard on 13 28 69 and ask to be put through to the person who just called you.
  3. Finally, and most importantly, never send money or give financial details to someone you don’t know or trust.

Generally, if you ever get a call from a government or law enforcement agency ask for the name and number of the caller and say you will return the call or better still tell them to put it in writing. Then spend some time finding the agency’s known and advertised phone number to call them and verify if they truly initiated the call. This step could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars and prevent you from being a statistic!

Remember no government or law enforcement agency will get you to pay them by wire transfer e.g. Western Union or Moneygram, electronic voucher such as Ukash or by bank transfer using account numbers given out-of-the-blue over the phone. Never make payments to government or law enforcement agencies using these methods.

Page created: 29 May 2015