The ATO Scam Alert:

If you suspect a phone call, SMS, voicemail, email, or social media interaction claiming to be from the ATO is not genuine, do not engage with it. Generally, if you receive a call or text message, do not respond. If you think you have an outstanding tax issue, you should call your accountant or the ATO directly instead of responding to an email or SMS pretending to be an ATO agent. 

Overview – Recently, we received a review letter from the ATO on behalf of Ben and Jenny, suggesting that the ATO is holding a refund while they check an amendment. We started reviewing Ben’s tax return and discovered that we hadn’t initiated any amendment. Ben and Jenny have been lodging both their personal and business tax returns with us for more than 15 years, and not once have they undertaken any sort of tax or BAS lodgement without consulting their accountants.

Therefore, we investigated further and found that Jenny’s tax return had also been recently amended and a large refund claimed; however, since she had an outstanding PAYG instalment, the refund wasn’t released. We contacted Ben and Jenny to ask if they had engaged anyone else to handle their amendments, or if they had made the amendments themselves. They confirmed that they had not done so.

ATO Scam Alert

Findings – We reached out to the ATO, stating that neither we nor the client had initiated any amendments. The ATO suggested that the amendments were made through MyGov. This means somehow the scammers/criminals got access to Ben and Jenny’s myGov ID.  

As a result, the ATO has taken necessary measures to prevent such unauthorized activities from occurring again on their accounts. This includes blocking the ability to link their MyGov accounts and access prefilling reports. Consequently, they will need to call the ATO to obtain these reports.

The ATO recommended that both Ben and Jenny take the following actions:

  1. Report the incident to the police.
  2. Contact their banks and relevant government agencies, such as Medicare, Centrelink, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
  3. Reach out to ID Care at 1800 595 160 for support in cases of data breaches. Their website is
  4. Contact the Australian Cyber Security Hotline at 1300 292 371.
  5. Call the ATO at 132861, using the fast key code 32.”

The ATO has warned that Australians are being bombarded with phishing and scam text messages. They are urging the community and taxpayers to stay vigilant, issuing warnings almost every month. Approximately 75% of all email scams reported to the ATO in the past six months have been linked to a fake MyGov sign-in page.

Scammers use these fake MyGov websites to steal sign-in credentials and gain access to your MyGov account. Once they have access, they can make fraudulent lodgements in your name and change bank details, redirecting any payments to a scammer’s account.

Sample Messages Scammers are Sending to the Taxpayers – Scammers use different phrases to trick people into opening these links. Some examples are:

  • ‘You are due to receive an ATO Direct refund.’
  • ‘You have a new message in your myGov inbox – click here to view”.
  • ‘You need to update your details to allow your Tax return to be processed.’
  • ‘We need to verify your incoming tax deposit.’
  • ‘ATO Refund failed due to incorrect BSB/Account number.’
  • ‘Your income statement is ready, click on the link to view’.
  • The following images are examples of the format this scam can take.

Identity Theft – Identity theft is more rampant than ever, with criminals becoming increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy. Their emails and SMS messages may appear to be from the government, but it’s important to remember that the government does not ask for personal changes via these channels. To perpetrate identity theft, criminals only need a few basic details such as your name, date of birth, address, MyGov details, or tax file number (TFN).

With this information, they can:

  • Access your bank accounts and make purchases using your credit card.
  • Log into your MyGov account to steal your tax refund.
  • Withdraw funds from your superannuation.
  • Register fraudulent self-managed super funds (SMSFs).
  • Apply for government benefits in your name.
  • Commit refund fraud.
  • Take control of your business and make unauthorised adjustments to previously submitted Business Activity Statements (BAS).
  • Sell your identity to organized crime groups on the dark web or through other channels.

According to the ATO, there has been significant growth in the use of SMS by cybercriminals. Throughout the 2022–23 financial year, SMS scams impersonating the ATO brand, products, services, and our people, increased by over 400%. The government organizations may use SMS to contact you; however, it is unlikely that they will use a link to log in and use your information. If you receive any message or phone calls from myGov or the ATO regarding a tax refund or tax payable do not click any links. Simply contact your accountant and let them do the investigations.

If you receive a call from the ATO, and they are requesting you to provide your identification be very careful and let them know that you have an accountant and you will request your accountant to speak to the ATO. If you do not have an accountant managing your tax affairs and would like to engage one to avoid dealing with various challenges on your own, please feel free to contact us at Investax. Our tax specialists will be happy to help you with your annual accounting and tax affairs.

Pro Tips – 

Link – When the government communicates with you via email or SMS, they generally do not include links for updating or submitting your personal data. Official communications are designed to protect your privacy and security, avoiding direct links to ensure that scammers cannot easily mimic such messages.

Tax Refund – The ATO never contacts taxpayers via SMS to discuss tax refunds or to request updates on banking information for refund purposes. Any communication claiming to be from the ATO and asking for personal financial details for a tax refund should be considered suspicious and verified through official channels. Check with your accountant if you are expecting a refund. 

ATO Representative – Typically, when the ATO calls, it is to collect debts or lodge outstanding tax, or BAS returns rather than to issue refunds. If an ATO representative does call, they will simply verify your name; they will not ask for sensitive details like your date of birth, residential address, or banking information. Always double-check with your accountant before providing any bank details or using any link to make payments to the ATO. This caution helps prevent fraud and protects your personal information.

Guard Personal Information: Never share your tax file number (TFN), date of birth, credit card details, or bank account information unless you initiated the call and confirmed the number from the ATO website.

Consult Before Acting: Consult with a trusted tax professional or directly with the ATO before responding to any unexpected tax-related communication, especially one that involves personal or financial information.

Report Scams: Remember to report any suspicious contact claiming to be from the ATO to the actual ATO, which has a dedicated ‘Verify or report a scam’ site for confirming such details. If you suspect you have fallen victim to a scam, contact your bank immediately to place safeguards on your accounts. Even if you did not pay money or provide sensitive personal identifying information to the scammer, you should still report the scam to the ATO.

You can either:

  • Forward the entire email to [email protected] ,
  • Take a screenshot of the SMS and email it to [email protected] . After reporting, delete the email (from your inbox, sent items, and deleted items) or the SMS.

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