Recently, scammers have been calling people pretending to be ATO officers, and demand that a “tax debt” be paid off using iTunes gift cards as a form of payment.

Assistant Commissioner Janine Clark said that based on recent reports made to the ATO, iTunes gift cards were part of new tactic being used by fraudsters. Unfortunately the fraud worked in a number of cases, with Clark reporting that 26 people handed over iTunes cards valued at nearly $175,000 over the past month.

“By the time these scams are reported to us, the cards have already been on-sold or redeemed by the scammers,” Clark said. “The scammers don’t need the actual physical card. They just need the gift card number, which they get victims to read over the phone.”

She said the ATO has recently received reports of not only iTunes card scams, but also pre-paid Visa gift cards bought from supermarkets and department stores.

“What we’re most concerned about is that vulnerable Australians who have little interaction with us are not only being led to believe this is a legitimate request for payment from the ATO but they are giving out personal information such as their tax file number,” Clark said.

Provision of personal information to an unauthorised person opens up further opportunity for identity theft and fraud. “We will never request the payment of a tax debt via gift or pre-paid cards such as iTunes and Visa cards. Nor will we ask for direct credit to be paid to a personal bank account,” she said. “And if the person calling you is rude and aggressive, threatening police or legal action if you don’t do something immediately – it’s not the ATO.”

Clark reminds taxpayers that if they do have a tax debt, the ATO would have written to you first. “If we do ring you, our staff will identify themselves and let you know how you can call us back,” she said. “If you think you’ve been scammed or would like to confirm the legitimacy of an ATO call or letter, phone us on 1800 008 540.”

Information on legitimate ATO payment methods is available here. And for more information about how to report a scam, visit this web page.

Peter McCarthy

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