Beware of Tax Scams

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How to Recognise a Tax Scam

We are starting to see more Scams involving tax. The reason for this is simple. The scammer uses a fake ATO logo and that in itself creates the fear in people to act.
Terry Hayes wrote a great article in Property Observer 7th Feb 2014

The scams range from the very basic to the quite sophisticated. People and businesses need to be on their toes not to be fooled by the scammers.
Most recently, NSW Fair Trading Minister Stuart Ayres said Fair Trading had received a report of a scam letter offering landlords living overseas the opportunity to claim a tax exemption on rental income.

He said the letter advises agencies managing landlords to forward forms to them to complete and return to the scammers. The forms require detailed personal information as well as photocopies of passports and mortgage account numbers. The covering letter in the scam email is badly written with numerous errors of grammar and spelling (this is not uncommon).

The letters aim to harvest details from real estate agents about Australian properties they manage on behalf of non-residents. The scammers may then seek to assume the identities of the non-residents and sell their Australian properties without the real owners’ knowledge.

Ayres said Fair Trading had issued a warning about the same scam in July last year after it was reported by a real estate agent in Lennox Head.

The ATO confirmed the scam to Fair Trading and that identical fake Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs letters had been sent to real estate agents in the United Kingdom since at least March 2012, he said.

The scam letter may also feature fake ATO branding, as well as branding from other revenue jurisdictions (e.g. from HMRC in the UK). Ayres said these types of widely circulated scams are regularly sent to other international jurisdictions and the perpetrators often fail to change all details. A similar scam was identified in Western Australia in 2012.

The HMRC and ATO signature on the scam letters is identical and in some places in the ATO letter, the scammers have failed to replace the HMRC references, he said.

ATO Chief Technology Officer Todd Heather said the ATO’s brand was often employed in scams due to the Tax Office’s intensive interaction with the community and their willingness to comply with requests from the ATO. “Scammers are relying on more sophisticated methods to trick people into handing over their financial or personal contact details,” he said.

The scam flagged by Fair Trading, as with many others reported to the ATO, asks people for their personal details so they can likely commit identity theft and other types of fraud. Heather said the ATO has seen this scam over the past two years and have dealt with it by informing real estate industry associations and asking them to warn their members.

In 2013 alone, the ATO received almost 50,000 reports from the public about ATO branded scams.

To avoid being scammed, NSW Fair Trading offers some sensible advice:

  • Don’t respond to offers, deals or requests for your personal details. Stop. Take time to independently check the request or offer.
  • Never send money or give credit card, account or other personal details to anyone who makes unsolicited offers or requests for your information.
  • Don’t rely on glowing testimonials: find solid evidence from independent sources (not those provided with the offer).
  • Never respond to out of the blue requests for your personal details.
  • Always type in the address of the website of a bank, business or authorities

ATO Chief Technology Officer Todd Heather said the ATO’s brand was often employed in scams due to the Tax Office’s intensive interaction with the community and their willingness to comply with requests from the ATO. “Scammers are relying on more sophisticated methods to trick people into handing over their financial or personal contact details,” he said.

The scam flagged by Fair Trading, as with many others reported to the ATO, asks people for their personal details so they can likely commit identity theft and other types of fraud. Heather said the ATO has seen this scam over the past two years and have dealt with it by informing real estate industry associations and asking them to warn their members.
In 2013 alone, the ATO received almost 50,000 reports from the public about ATO branded scams.

To avoid being scammed, NSW Fair Trading offers some sensible advice:

  • Don’t respond to offers, deals or requests for your personal details. Stop. Take time to independently check the request or offer.
  • Never send money or give credit card, account or other personal details to anyone who makes unsolicited offers or requests for your information.
  • Don’t rely on glowing testimonials: find solid evidence from independent sources (not those provided with the offer).
  • Never respond to out of the blue requests for your personal details.
  • Always type in the address of the website of a bank, business or authority you are interested in to ensure you are logging onto the genuine website.
  • Don’t open unsolicited emails.

Regularly updated information on tax-related scams and online security is available on theATO Chief Technology Officer Todd Heather said the ATO’s brand was often employed in scams due to the Tax Office’s intensive interaction with the community and their willingness to comply with requests from the ATO. “Scammers are relying on more sophisticated methods to trick people into handing over their financial or personal contact details,” he said.
The scam flagged by Fair Trading, as with many others reported to the ATO, asks people for their personal details so they can likely commit identity theft and other types of fraud. Heather said the ATO has seen this scam over the past two years and have dealt with it by informing real estate industry associations and asking them to warn their members.
In 2013 alone, the ATO received almost 50,000 reports from the public about ATO branded scams.

To avoid being scammed, NSW Fair Trading offers some sensible advice:

  • Don’t respond to offers, deals or requests for your personal details. Stop. Take time to independently check the request or offer.
  • Never send money or give credit card, account or other personal details to anyone who makes unsolicited offers or requests for your information.
  • Don’t rely on glowing testimonials: find solid evidence from independent sources (not those provided with the offer).
  • Never respond to out of the blue requests for your personal details.
  • Always type in the address of the website of a bank, business or authority you are interested in to ensure you are logging onto the genuine website. 
  • Don’t open unsolicited emails.

Regularly updated information on tax-related scams and online security is available on the ATO website.
If you receive anything from the ATO that requests personal information its best that you report it to your Client Manager at Chan & Naylor first, who will report it to Kota and Felix who heads up our IT department. They are extremely good at identifying scams. They will than advise you whether to delete the email and will report it to the ATO.

Well Malcolm Fraser once said “Life wasn’t meant to be easy” we thought that was simply directed at having to pay tax.

It was bad enough having to pay tax but being scammed as well, that just takes the cake.

 

Disclaimer: This article contains general information. Before you make any financial or investment decision you should seek professional advice to take into account your individual objectives, financial situation and individual needs.

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