How To Spot a Scam

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Recently, a client who had sought the assistance of a tax advisor shared a concerning experience. She received a phone call claiming to be from the ATO, threatening legal action for so-called irregularities in her tax return. Luckily, she was not at home when the call came through, and a message was left on her answering machine. This provided her with the opportunity to call us before taking any action in responses to the threatening message.

This was a scam to try and gain access to her private information, which in turn could have been used for identity theft.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has issued a warning about this specific threat on its official website, urging individuals to remain vigilant.

It is important to note that these scams don’t only appear to come from the ATO but also from many other institutions, like banks, telcos and super funds. Scammers even use the institutions’ logos and corporate colours when sending out fake emails to make them seem legitimate.

There are a few things to look out for when spotting a scam:

  • Unsolicited Communication: Be cautious if you receive a call or email that you did not expect nor request.
  • Lack of Personalisation: They do not address you by name.
  • Requests for Personal or Financial Information: Be suspicious of any message asking for your personal or financial details. Authentic organisations usually do not solicit sensitive information through unsolicited communication.
  • Poorly Worded Content: Scam messages often contain grammatical errors, awkward language, or inconsistencies. If the communication is poorly written, it may be a red flag.
  • Promises of Money: Be wary of communications that make unrealistic promises of financial gain. Scammers often use enticing offers to lure individuals into providing information.
  • Attachments or Links for Form Submission: Avoid opening attachments or clicking on links in messages that request you to submit forms. This could potentially expose your computer system to spyware or viruses.

It is essential that you are careful not to open any email attachments unless you know who they are from. Similarly, it is crucial that you never provide any personal details or discuss any financial information unless you know who you are dealing with.

If you ever encounter a suspicious communication claiming to be from the ATO or any other institution, and you suspect it might be a scam, please report it immediately. You can report an ATO scam or any related fraudulent activity by clicking here. Additionally, inform your tax advisor to ensure timely and appropriate action.

Kreston Stanley Williamson

*Correct as of June 2015

*Disclaimer – Kreston Stanley Williamson has produced this article to serve its clients and associates. The information contained in the article is of general comment only and is not intended to be advice on any particular matter. Before acting on any areas in this article, you must seek advice about your circumstances. Liability is limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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