Australia: Beware of Fake Cryptocurrency “Tax Collectors”

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The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) issued a statement concerning fraudsters that try to make themselves look like tax collectors in order to steal cryptocurrency from Australian citizens.

Kath Anderson, assistant commissioner,  said that “recent reports to the ATO had identified fraudsters pioneering this new payment method when defrauding taxpayers in late 2017.”

“We became aware of scammers seeking payment in Bitcoin last year. So far we have seen over $50,000 paid in Bitcoin to scammers claiming fake ATO tax debts,” she added.

“Cryptocurrency operates in a virtual world, and once the scammers receive payment, it’s virtually impossible to get it back.”

“Scammers are constantly adapting their methods to maximise their chances of picking your pocket. Unfortunately it was inevitable that scammers would target cryptocurrency given its current popularity and anonymity.”

The ATO also insists on warning the public that tax-collector scammers might not only be after cryptocurrency. Last year alone, $2.4 Million was stolen from the Australian public by fraudsters claiming they were from the ATO.

“Over $900,000 worth of iTunes gift cards were reportedly paid to scammers – by almost one third of all victims. We are hoping that the new warnings Apple is including on their gift cards will help people realise the ATO doesn’t accept payment in iTunes cards,” Ms. Anderson reports

“Even more concerning at the moment is that more than half of all losses are a result of scammers convincing taxpayers to make deposits or transfers directly into third-party bank accounts. Roughly $1.2 million was reported lost in this way in 2017.”

To ensure that the people you are talking to are really from the ATO, Kath Anderson has a recommendation:

“If you receive a phone call out of the blue, threatening police or legal action if you don’t pay a debt, or the person calling you is rude and aggressive, hang up, it won’t be the ATO. Any call-back number provided should be checked via an independent internet search to ensure you are calling the ATO.”

The ATO gives “Five simple ways to protect your family and friends from identity crimes”:

  1. Know what to protect
  2. Remind them to keep their personal information safe and secure
  3. Warn them if they share to much on social media
  4. Be suspicious of requests for personal information
  5. Know legitimate ways to make payments

Last week, an Australian Bureau of Meteorology employee was arrested for mining cryptocurrency on the agency’s computer.

 

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