Man using laptop with the word "scam" on the screen

Be Aware of Tax Scams

With tax time upon us and COVID stresses ever-present, many people are proving to be vulnerable to scammers.  There are many different ways that scam artists can trick both individuals and small businesses, so we’re looking at the most common scams reported by the ATO and other organisations.

August 2021 phone scam – new payment methods

We’re receiving reports of scammers demanding money by new methods.

This includes things like:

  • ‘cardless cash’ ATM withdrawals
  • retail gift cards, such as JB hi-fi, Myer and Woolworths
  • courier services who collect the cash payments
  • cash delivery made in person at a pre-determined public location.

Scammers are trying to trick people into making payments by pretending to be from the ATO and other agencies, such as the Australian Federal Police.

They might tell you that your TFN has been suspended or compromised due to money laundering or other illegal activity, or that you owe a debt.

The real ATO will never demand payment by these methods. You should always check legitimate ways to pay a tax debt on the ATO website before making a payment.

If you have paid money to a scammer through one of the methods listed above or are concerned about your personal safety, report it to your local police straight away and specify all the details.

We also strongly encourage you to contact your financial institution immediately. In some cases, they may be able to stop a transaction or close your account if the scammer has your account details.

And remember, if you’re ever unsure whether an ATO contact is genuine, hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check.


Here are some other common ATO ploys scammers use to try and lure your money:

Text Message Scams

A scam involves a text message supposedly from ‘ATO refund’ offering a tax refund to the recipient. If you click on the link, you’ll be asked for your personal details, Tax File Number (TFN) and credit card number, including the three digit security code on the back. Supposedly, this is so the refund can be deposited in your account but, in reality, it’s so that the scammer can steal money from your credit card.

A slight variation on the same scheme involves the scammer asking for a small fee to be paid via your credit card in order to access your refund. Shortly after paying, much larger deductions will be charged to your card.

Email Scams

Phishing scams, in which fake emails are sent out that appear to be from the ATO are also popular and these often feature a subject line that includes the words “tax refund”. These can include a link to a fake website that asks you to enter all of your confidential personal information such as your Tax File Number, bank account details, date of birth, home address and employment information. Or, alternatively, the email may contain a link that unleashes a virus on your computer.

How to take action

All calls, messages and emails of this kind should be treated with extreme caution. The ATO, Centrelink, banks and financial institutions will never contact you to request verification of personal details for any reason, including tax returns.

Do not click on any link in the message or email, or call a phone number provided by the email.
If you are unsure about the authenticity of a phone call, text message or email, hang up the call, ignore the message, and contact the official company communication line to verify.

Unfortunately, the clever methods of these scammers are often successful, with nearly $190,000 paid to scammers last financial year (according to the ATO) and over 1600 people handed over their personal or financial information.

If you have provided a scammer with funds or provided personal details, immediately notify the relevant institution – your bank, the ATO or police authorities about your compromised personal details to receive prompt and relevant advice.

If you have any questions regarding your 2021 tax return contact one of our STS Accounting Group team.