Don’t fall for ‘ATO’ con job
THE owner of a Cairns-based travel business has had the scare of a life after answering a call from a scammer claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO.)
Erryn Wells was shocked the caller knew her home address, her tax file number and details of recent banking transactions.
"They knew stuff about me no one should know," she said.
Ms Wells said the caller had an Indian accent and had called from a number with an Australian Capital Territory area code.
He demanded $4000 in an aggressive manner, threatened to seize her car and her business assets, and told her if she hung up the phone, men would be sent to arrest her.
"He started quoting numbers to me and accused me of five counts of federal fraud," she said.
In a panic Ms Wells contacted her bank on another phone while the real fraudsters waited on the first phone.
She then went to the Lake Street Woolworths supermarket to get the money.
"I walked down to the Woolies and the girls could see I was freaked out - I was shaking and could not press the numbers into the machine," she said.
Ms Wells was convinced by friends at the supermarket to hang up on the call. She immediately called her bank to cancel credit cards and rang the real ATO, which connected Ms Wells with the Crimes Investigation Unit.
Ms Wells said she had heard of many others being contacted by the fraudsters on the same number and held grave concerns for older people, who she said could fall prey to the scammers more easily. The CDB business owner also was concerned for others who have been targeted and urged people to report calls through the Scamwatch website.
Scamwatch has received 9000 reports of tax scams so far this year.
"Tax scammers are sophisticated in the language they use to scare people into paying money," an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission spokesman said.
"The ATO will never demand immediate payment of a debt, use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with arrest over the phone.
"If someone calls you out of the blue threatening you, you can be nearly certain it's a scam," the spokesman said.
Report suspected scams to www.scamwatch.gov.au