ATO Warns Tax Scammers Demanding Bitcoin Payments

Close-up shot on Bitcoin

The Australian Tax Office has issued a warning against fraudsters who are disguising themselves as ATO officers and demanding Bitcoin payments.

Scammers have in recent times tweaked their tactics and are now more ruthless than ever before.

From the Twitter scam in which they impersonated Elon Musk, to their recent events where they call Australian citizens disguised as tax authority personnel, scammers are testing each avenue to deceive unsuspecting individuals.

In the midst of the escalating scam cases, the ATO (Australian Taxation Office) has come out to issue a public warning against scammers impersonating its personnel and demanding cryptocurrency (Bitcoin) to settle “fake” tax debts.

The ATO has outlined that Australians have been duped of over $50,000 worth of Bitcoin by scammers disguising themselves as ATO representatives.

Inside the Bitcoin Payments Scam

In the official statement, ATO Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson is quoted stating that the apparent Bitcoin payments scam cases came to their attention just last year. Shockingly, she noted that within this period, they have recorded payments exceeding $50,000 in Bitcoin all made to scammers disguised as Australian Taxation Office representatives citing “pending debts.”

This new scamming tactic that uses Bitcoin emerged in Australia late in the year 2017 right about the time when cryptocurrencies were experiencing an enormous boom.

Typically, all cryptocurrency-based operations occur in a virtual realm. As such, once the Bitcoin payments are delivered to the scammers, tracking them back becomes virtually impossible.

As expected, scammers are continually altering their techniques in efforts to increase their success at duping unsuspecting individuals. Besides this, Anderson also noted that with the anonymity and sudden popularity of cryptocurrency, it was inevitable that scammers would precisely target Bitcoin.

iTunes and VISA Also Victims

Unfortunately, these scammers are not just focused on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Such is the diversity of their scope that it also spreads to encompass prepaid VISA cards as well as iTunes gift cards, among many others.

In her statement, Anderson also highlighted that last year (2017), there were more than 80,000 scamming cases reported, with the complaint claims amounting to about $2.4 million worth of payment amounts, all lost to the so-called “ATO tax representatives.”

Furthermore, close to a third of the victims also claimed to have made payments to fraudsters through their iTunes gift cards all amounting to just over $900,000.

Nevertheless, Anderson is particularly optimistic that with Apple actively issuing and including warnings on the iTunes gift cards, people can finally gather that payments using iTunes cards are not among what ATO accepts.

In continuation, Anderson also showed her dismay at the recent prominence of the approach used by these scammers. Apparently, over 50 percent of the overall loses recorded involved scammers convincing innocent individuals to directly make transfers or deposits into third-party accounts. In 2017 alone, the approximate amount of money lost under such circumstances stood at about $1.2 million.

The ATO, according to Anderson, is also troubled that the figures are almost similar when considering the number of victims who are lured to sharing their personal details like Tax File Numbers.

In conclusion, Anderson cautions against sharing personal information. She outlines that personal details are like the “key” to a person’s identity and, as such, they need to be guarded carefully.

Protecting Yourself (And Others) from Identity Theft

Bitcoin symbol among piles of golden coins

Finally, in case you fall prey to any form of scam, be sure to immediately notify the relevant authorities for assistance.

Below are some tips you can adopt to prevent identity theft:

  1. First and foremost, you need to vigilantly guard your personal details.

This is because they are especially valuable to scammers in helping them perpetuate impersonations. These details can include the date of birth, full names, bank account numbers, current address, passport and driver’s license details, tax file numbers, credit card information, or even passwords.

  1. After knowing what to protect, you need to ensure that each personal detail is both secure and safe.

This information is very hard to recover once stolen. As such, exercise vigilance and necessary precautions such as not storing sensitive material on your phone to guarantee the safety of your personal information.

  1. Be careful on social media.

In recent times, social media has firmed its grip as the most popular way of communicating, relaying information and of course interacting with others across the globe. Nonetheless, because of its prominence, it has also opened the door for malicious individuals to breach user’s privacy and access personal information.

For this reason, it is essential that you limit the amount of information you share on these sites. This is to avert any consequences that accompany the now rampant targeted attacks.

Alternatively, you can also set your account profiles to private as well as carefully scrutinizing any friend requests and messages before responding to them. In particular, be on the lookout for suspicious patterns, such as requests for personal information or requests from unfamiliar accounts, names or identities.

  1. Other tips:

Before releasing any sensitive materials, or even making payments, do some research to find out the legitimate ways to do so.

Finally, in case you fall prey to any form of scam, be sure to immediately notify the relevant authorities for assistance. You can report a scam to the ATO here.

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