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Bayside Residents Beware

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March 11, 2016

It was recently reported to my office that a senior female constituent living on her own received a call from a person purportedly from the Australian Taxation Office.

A request was made for a payment forthwith of $2,000 otherwise the debt would escalate to $45,000 and she would be arrested and jailed.  A return call number was left.  The caller was brazen, persistent and requested credit card details for a payment to be made to resolve the issue.

I rang the number and upon the second attempt the call was answered and a person identified himself as being from the Australian Taxation Office.  He gave a reference ID and welcomed being cross referenced with the police but it was discernible that it was a scam.

I have since raised this matter with the Office of Consumer Affairs and received the following response.

“Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) has published a news alert on their website re: Australian Taxation Office (ATO) tax scams in September 2015: https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/news-and-events/news-updates/aggressive-tax-scam-targets-victorians-news-alert

CAV has also distributed via social media:
- 8 tweets linking to the news alert, and/or media articles, and information from the ATO, warning about tax scams and how to avoid them
- 3 Facebook posts about tax scams.

The following scam watch alert was also made

https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/news/don%E2%80%99t-let-scammers-%E2%80%98tax-you-this-tax-time

Further to this; CAV sought information from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) who have provided the following information:

The scam seems to have started in Australia around March 2015. It first appeared as an Immigration scam threatening deportation. It has turned up in various guises including speeding fine threats, Centrelink threats and Telstra unpaid bill threats. The scammers seem to use the ATO unpaid tax threat most commonly.
 
While the scam reports often mention an Australian looking number with a local STD code up front, they usually turn out to be Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) numbers. A very large number of our contacts report heavy Indian accents and it considered that it emanates offshore from Indian call centres.
 
Australia is not alone and the same scam is bombarding the US, UK and Canada.

The focus has been on educating the community to these scams and I have previously provided information about these efforts.

The ACCC has also made a number of alerts/releases”

Should residents be aware of any other instances or attempted scams please let my office know or report it directly to Consumer Affairs Victoria.