July 4, 2023

The other day one of our staff received a call which went something like this:

“I am Linda James from the Australian Tax Office.  Please get a pen and paper and write down these details. My ID is ………………. And your case number is …………………….  I must give you relevant information that this call is being recorded by ATO Head Office.  If it is disconnected and not reconnected within 45 minutes your case will be downloaded to the local court house and the sheriff’s department will be contacting you. I see that there are allegations on your file of a legal lawsuit against you by the ATO.”

There are several things wrong with this call.  Apart from the fact that our staff member had their tax returns entirely up to date and had very recently received a tax refund, the ATO (a federal agency) does not use the “local court house” or “sheriff’s office” (which are part of the state system) to enforce debts.

We were lucky to quickly pick up on these errors and realise this was a scam call – we’d also heard that such calls were doing the round. While the staff member terminated the call immediately, no doubt the caller would have gone on to ask for funds to be transferred immediately in order to avoid enforcement proceedings and a bad credit rating.

Unfortunately, we have heard of people being pressured into making such payments. Formal, legal sounding language used in these calls can be intimidating and cause panic (which is the scam caller’s intention).

Don’t be caught, always double and triple check before acting on any phone call. Never make a payment to someone claiming to be from the ATO by way of money order from the post office or some other type of non-traceable payment.

If you receive a suspicious call from someone claiming to be from the tax office, you can check the ATO’s website for recent scam alerts here. You can also phone the ATO directly on 1800 008 540 to verify a call, and/or to report a scam.


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