Are You The Next Australian SCAM Target?

ATO Australian Taxation Office
1. How elaborate have SCAMs become in Australia?
2. Who are the targets of SCAMERS?
3. How can you protect yourself, your business and your family from SCAMs?

The highly sophisticated Australian financial sector and how we conduct business ensures that simplistic SCAMS are easily detected. An example would be how many scam emails are trapped in everyday SPAM filters provided by our Internet Service Providers. Financial institutions further protect our finances using artificial intelligence and machine learning as they attempt to keep abreast of cybercriminals.

Where things become complicated is when SCAMMERS or hackers use multiple channels, third party companies such as utility, local government or phone providers to circumvent multiple electronic SCAM traps and institutional protections.

Whilst the ATO releases data relating to SCAMS which claim to be collecting or enforcing taxation penalties, many other industries experience similar incidents.

A case study that illustrates this was a call made to a friend recently from, supposedly their phone and data provider. The recipient was asked if they had noticed that their internet was intermittently slow or dropped out occasionally. The answer was of course, “Well occasionally, I suppose.”

The SCAMMER then requested they confirm their connection number and the model of their router to allow, “Our technical team to test your connection.” They were promised a call or email verifying the results of the test. 72 hours later, the call was received. There was a problem, they were told, but it was not at the end of the extension. To ensure their privacy, they were asked to call the technical support number, toll free of course, and provide additional security information.

The support number was the second level of the SCAM, complete with the exact automated message options, delays, transfers to the correct department, and extended pauses while details were verified. At the conclusion of this call, the SCAMMER had verified name, address, phone number, email, and a licence number.

Now to the Technical Department, who informed the client that they needed to access their router to rectify a problem that had been identified, and potentially put their online browsing information at risk of hackers! Within 10 minutes, the SCAMMER had located and accessed online banking information on the client’s computer. They were told that a refund for $84.12 for the inconvenience would be processed and appear in the account they used to pay the bill. Would they please check to see this had occurred?

Yes they confirmed, the transaction was visible. Would they please confirm the first 6 digits of that account? It was at this point alarm bells began ringing. They terminated the call, and called their bank. Looking at all their accounts, the noted that $84.12 was transferred from one of their accounts to another, and $20,000 was withdrawn just prior to this happening.

The bank was able to claim the loss on insurance, and the funds were repaid in full.

Most are not so lucky.

SCAMs and Fraud are becoming more sophisitcated

The ATO is warning Australians that a SCAM involving a phone or SMS request for payment as their Tax File Number has been suspended. ‘To avoid legal action we require payment immediately,” say the SCAMMERS.

The ATO will never,

– Send you an email or text message asking you to send us your information by email or text message.
– Send you an email or text message with a link to log into online services.
– Send a pre-recorded message saying the police are coming to arrest you or demanding urgent payment of money.
Never ask for payment by bank transfers to:
A bank that is not the Reserve Bank of Australia
Overseas wire transfers;
iTunes or Google Play cards;
Cardless cash transfers;
Cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.

A fear of falling foul of the ATO is a significant motivation to not think clearly when we are disrupted by a phone call with a valid local number (which has been ‘stamped’ over the caller’s true ID) and the addition of urgency, threats of legal action add to the reasons many are falling for these elaborate SCAMS.

Any communication with the ATO or requests for payments will be via your regular secure online channels, such as MyGov.

How much of a problem is this really? Although difficult to measure accurately, one scheme
scammed Australians out of more than $11million in May this year through a plague of fake money-making schemes.

With the increasing level of sophistication, the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to continually improve SCAMS, it is still the basic rules which protect you, your finances, your business and family the best.

Guard your personal information. It is yours. Names, date of birth, passport, licence or ID numbers, credit card and bank account numbers are your personal property.

Protect them diligently, and use only channels where you know who, why and what your data is being used. This even applies to making calls to utility companies, banks or businesses you transact with.

If you have even the slightest doubt about any call, email or message you receive, contact the ATO on their special SCAM information page: https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Online-services/Identity-security/Scam-reports/