Scam takes $8000 from fraud victim

Emily AceSouth Western Times

Consumer Protection is alerting people to be aware of a tax debt scam after a spike of reports of mounting losses, including that of a Bunbury woman who lost $8000 to fraudsters.

Consumer protection South West regional coordinator Annetta Bellingeri said the woman reported the scam to the Bunbury office after receiving a threatening message on her phone, which urged her to call back or face the consequences.

“They rang it and were told they owed a tax bill, which they though was a bit strange because they had recently paid their tax, but thought something had been put through incorrectly,” Miss Bellingeri said.

“It just made them react really quickly, so they purchased iTunes gift cards which is how the money was sent to the scammers.”

So far this year, 21 victims have reported to WA ScamNet losing a total of $78,250 with 11 victims losing $38,800 just last month. The highest single loss was $10,200.

Most were ordered to pay their “debt” by purchasing either iTunes or Google Play cards which the scammers are able to on-sell.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said the period from July to December was a peak time for tax scam activity.

“Many people are finalising their tax affairs after the end of the financial year, so it wouldn’t be unusual to get a call from the tax office and the scammers are preying on this,” Mr Hillyard said.

“It’s essential that people know that the tax office will never make threatening phone calls so be wary if you receive these calls and don’t be intimidated as the scammers want to create a situation of fear and urgency.

“Hang up and, if you are concerned, contact the ATO independently on their official number to verify the call was fake, but don’t use any numbers that have come from the caller.”

“The ATO will never demand payment using iTunes or Google Play cards or, in some cases, money transfer services or Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

“Be aware that you may also get emails or SMS messages purporting to be from the ATO, prompting you to click on a link or open an attachment, which seek to get personal information from you that could lead to your identity being stolen.”

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