Tax office warns of fake website scam

Fake websites advertising on social media platforms charge for free government services and then fail to provide them.

The Australian Taxation Office has received an increase in reports of bogus sites offering to provide tax file numbers or Australian business numbers for a fee and then failing to deliver them.

Over 50,000 Australians reported scammers posing as the ATO last year, with cumulative losses of over $800,000.

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“We also continue to see scammers impersonating the ATO, making threats, demanding payment of false tax debts or claiming that a TFN has been ‘suspended’ due to fraud,” the commissioner said on Tuesday. ATO deputy, Tim Loh.

Scammers use an offer of TFN and ABN numbers to lure victims, although these numbers are provided free of charge by the ATO and the Australian Business Register.

They can also be obtained through a tax agent, and the ATO advises anyone applying through an agent to ensure they are registered with the Tax Practitioners Board.

Scammers are always looking for new ways to target victims and attempts to steal people’s personal information are likely to increase as tax time approaches, Loh warned.

The ATO said fake websites offering to charge for a free service they don’t actually provide are advertised on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

All three platforms have community guidelines or terms of service policies that prohibit fraudulent or illegal activity and rely on machine learning and human moderators to control it on their global platforms that billions of people use.

The ATO says Australians should be alert to online scammers and report them to the ATO or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s ScamWatch.

People can check if they have a legitimate tax debt by logging into their myGov account, and those with a debt will be notified by the ATO before it is due.

Sherry J. Basler