Warning: ASIC and ATO scams

ASIC and ATO Scams

A number of our clients have recently been contacted by persons claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) advising them of prosecution regarding a tax debt, asking them to pay fees or renew their business name.


Current ATO scams


Last year, more than 80,000 scams were reported to the ATO with Australian victims losing more than $2.5 million.  ATO assistant commissioner Kath Anderson warns it is peak season for these types of scams, which usually pop up towards the end of the financial year, as well as in November when tax debts are due.

1.  Phone scam – voicemail 

Scammers are leaving voicemail messages threatening the recipients with arrest due to an unknown tax debt or suspected tax evasion.  The scammers claim to be from the ATO and may threaten that a warrant for the person’s arrest will be issued if they do not call the scammer back on the phone number provided.

2.  Email scam – tax refund review 

Scammers are sending fake ATO emails asking completion of a ‘tax refund review’ form to receive a refund.  The form asks for online banking credentials, credit card numbers and limits, and personal address information.  Do not click nor save the attachment as it may download malicious malware onto your computer.  Do not disclose the personal information the form is requesting. The scam email:

  • may include the ATO logo
  • does not address the recipient by name
  • is not sent from a legitimate @ato.gov.au sender
  • may contain poor grammar
  • asks you to click a link that appears to be the ATO website but when hovering over the link it does not lead to an ato.gov.au address

3. Phone scam – fake debts & refunds 

ATO phone impersonation scams have been widely reported.  The scammers may tell you:·

  • a complaint has been made against you and you are committing tax fraud
  • that you have to pay a debt that you know nothing about
  • that you may be immediately arrested if you don’t pay the debt straight away
  • to pay the debt using unusual methods of payment that the ATO does not use such as iTunes, Bitcoin, store gift cards or pre-paid visa cards
  • you are owed a tax refund but you have to provide a personal credit card number for the funds to be deposited into


Current ASIC scams


Scammers pretending to be from ASIC have been contacting customers asking them to pay fees and give personal information to renew their business or company name.

These emails often have a link that provides an invoice with fake payment details or infects your computer with malware if you click the link.

Note that ASIC will only issue a renewal notice 30 days before your renewal date.  If you are in doubt about when your business name renewal is due, you can search for your business name on their register and if it’s outside their 30 day time frame it might be a scam.

Titled ‘Renewal’, the email informs customers that they need to renew their business name registration and contains a link to a renewal letter.

The email looks very similar to a legitimate business name renewal email but has a few key differences…

  • the scam email refers to your ‘registration’ but does not include your business name
  • the scam email does not contain any personalisation such as ‘Dear Mrs XXXX’
  • the URL displayed when you hover over the Renewal Link is not an ASIC URL

If you receive this fraudulent email, please delete it.


Spotting a scam


Scammers use a variety of deceptive methods to elicit payments, spread software viruses, install spyware or malware programs to access or steal personal information.

While scammers are becoming more sophisticated, keep in mind that representatives of the ATO and ASIC will never:

  • act in an abusive or offensive manner or threaten you with immediate arrest
  • ask you to transfer money into an account with a BSB that is not held with the Reserve Bank of Australia
  • ask for payment through unusual methods such as iTunes gift cards or other prepaid cards
  • ask you for your credit card details in order to receive a refund or other payment
  • use email, text messages or social media to ask you to update or provide personal information, supply your TFN, credit card or bank details
  • send you downloadable files or tell you to install software


Report any suspicious correspondence


If you are in doubt about an interaction you have had with someone claiming to be from the ATO or ASIC, you can contact our office and we will make enquiries on your behalf.

Alternatively, you can:

  • call the ATO on 1800 008 540 between 8:00am and 6:00pm Monday to Friday to verify the legitimacy of the contact
  • call ASIC on 1300 300 630 between 8:30am and 5:00pm Monday to Friday (local time) in each state and territory
  • forward the entire email to the ATO at ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au
  • forward the entire email to ASIC at ReportASICEmailFraud@asic.gov.au


Further help:

ASIC’s MoneySmart website has some great tips about protecting yourself from online scams.

Contact our office if you require assistance with an ATO or ASIC scam. You can reach us on (07) 3023 4800 or at mail@marshpartners.com.au.

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