Just recently the ATO has noticed an alarming new trend in scam activity involving scammers impersonating tax agents and BAS agents. The reason this new scam is so concerning is because it is proving to be effective, in that clients are generally trusting of their representatives. It is important for tax and BAS agents to be aware of this and ensure that their clients are aware & can practise caution.
In the past we’ve seen other scams such as the ‘fake tax debt’ scam and this one is similar in that scammers will impersonate registered agents to lend legitimacy to their phone call.
The fraudsters do this by:
> convincing the victim to reveal their agent’s name
> often they will initiate a three-way phone conversation between the scammer, the victim, and another scammer impersonating the victim's registered agent or someone from the agent's practice
Unfortunately, there are people who have already fallen for this new approach. In a recent example, a victim withdrew thousands of dollars in cash and deposited it into a Bitcoin ATM, fearing police had a warrant out for their arrest. This was because the phone conversation with the scammers was so realistic that the victim trusted the advice of the scammer ‘tax agent’.
BE AWARE that as registered tax agents and BAS agents we will never:
> demand immediate payment
> threaten them with arrest
> request payment by unusual means such as iTunes vouchers, store gift cards or Bitcoin cryptocurrency.
If you are suspicious about a phone call from someone claiming to be your tax or BAS agent, the ATO recommends you disconnect immediately and call 1800 008 540 to verify the call. Alternatively, you can hang up the call and contact your representative directly to confirm the status of your tax affairs.
If you have been contacted in regard to your bookkeeping services, bookkeeping software or tax services, and are unfamiliar with the identity of the caller, please don’t hesitate to hang up and contact your bookkeeper on their direct number to discuss the status of your bookkeeping and tax.
To stay up to date with the latest scams (and ensure you don't get caught up in one!) you can keep an eye out on the ATO Scam Alert webpage here.