The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has urged Australians to beware of an increasing number of fake government threat scams during tax time, with swindlers pocketing over $1.26 million so far this year.
From Jan. 1 to July 5, ACCC’s Scamwatch received thousands of reports of scammers claiming to be the ATO, Australian Federal Police, myGov, Services Australia, Department of Home Affairs, Department of Health, and state Department of Health and Human Services.
“Scammers are increasingly taking advantage of the financial difficulties and uncertainty generated from the COVID-19 pandemic to trick unsuspecting Australians,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said in a statement on July 21.
Rickard said many scammers were making fake government threats or using phishing techniques to dupe people into handing over their personal details.
Victims will receive an email or text message claiming to be from a government department, such as Services Australia, requesting personal details to confirm their eligibility for a government payment or early access to their superannuation.
Below are a few examples of what to look out for.
“Do not respond to texts or emails as the scammer will escalate their attempts to get your money,” Rickard said.
“These scams can be quite convincing and can lead to significant financial losses or even identity theft.”
According to the ACCC’s 2019 scams report (pdf), the top ways scammers reached unsuspecting Australians was through the phone (41 percent), email (24 percent), text message (17 percent), and internet (7 percent).
From 2018 to 2019, Scamwatch found an increase of 34 percent of financial losses to scams.
ACCC recommends Australians to report scams to Scamwatch and the government department that was impersonated.