Last week I received an interesting phone call. One which I had heard of last year, but until now had never received it.
So what was the phone call? One which would lead me to believe was from the ATO. It was warning me that there was an affidavit out against me and that my house was under surveillence. Except, as soon as I heard the voice start talking, I knew it was a fake call.
How did I know? The call was an automated recording.
Firstly, I want to take you through a few background details and you’ll begin to see how this scam works. I don’t claim to know all the answers, but here’s what I do know.
- The ATO has warned about these calls before. They’ve been common for the last few years, especially in the months leading up to the end of the financial year.
- If the ATO was trying to reach you, they would contact you via either SMS, letter or email and in each method, would recommend contacting them directly via the ATO switchboard.
- There are three possible outcomes of these types of scams – first is scamming you into paying an amount that they say you owe, the second is stealing your identifying details to be able to continue on with another form of scam in ‘identity theft’ and the third possibility is that when you call the number back, it redirects you to a premium cost phone number in which they receive a cut of money from it.
- Lastly, they aren’t aiming to have everyone fall for this, they just need one or two vulnerable people to believe them.
And yes, people have fallen victim to this. I know two examples of people who were taken advantage by it. One had been in hospital and quite ill, when she came home to a series of these types of messages on her voicemail. When she heard them, she was unable to work out the subtle clues that would have allowed her to see it was a scam. She was fleeced of a couple of thousand dollars. Another case was an elderly woman who was hard of hearing, who again was vulnerable to the pressure within the phone call recording. She too was fleeced several thousands of dollars.
Secondly, these are the actions you should take if you receive this type of phone call and aren’t certain if it is real.
- If you are speaking to a real person, ask their name and which department they are in so that you can reach them when you call them back.
- Do not call the number provided to you by the voice on the phone. Only ever call the phone number advertised on the ATO website.
- Double check with people within the real ATO that they had not called you, explain to them the call.
Thirdly, if you do call them back, these are the best steps to take to protect yourself.
- Call the ATO on the phone number provided in this media release – https://www.ato.gov.au/Media-centre/Media-releases/Protect-yourself-against-phone-scams/
- If you have provided any information to them or sent any money to them, immediately go to the Police to make a report. They will advise you the next steps to take.
The main things to remember are that while it can be scary to receive these types of calls, if you believe that it’s fake, more often than not it will be. If there is any reason for doubt, ALWAYS call the official phone number based on the legitimate website. This is true of banks as well as the ATO. And lastly, if you do fall victim to it, report it ASAP to the police so they can advise you the best methods of protecting yourself from further loss.