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Beware of a scam email offering tax refunds

15th March 2012

We all know that there’s no such thing as ‘free money’, yet scammers continue to catch us off-guard by sending unsolicited emails pretending to be from government agencies like the Australian Tax Office (ATO) .

In a recent email hoax, scammers try to convince unsuspecting victims to provide personal financial details to receive a tax refund.

Associate Partner at BMO Accountants, Mr David Briese said it’s important to remain vigilant and not provide your personal banking details when you receive unexpected emails asking for such information.

“Your alarm bells should start ringing if, out of the blue, you receive an email that looks like it’s from the Australian Tax Office and it asks for your financial details, like credit card numbers, so that you can receive a tax refund.

“Australian Government departments and agencies will never initiate contact with you so as to organise refunds and you do not need to pay fees to the ATO in order to obtain a refund.”

Mr Briese said the scammers often go to great lengths to convince recipients that the offer is genuine.

“At a cursory glance, an email that contains something that looks like the ATO’s logo and, if you click on the link, takes to you a website that looks like the ATO website, can appear genuine.

“However, it’s important to remember that the ATO, and other government agencies, will never send you emails requesting verification of personal details for tax returns,” he said.

There are ways to protect yourself against scammers. The easiest way is to never give out your personal financial details if you receive an unexpected message or call. This means the scammers will not get your details and be able to commit identify fraud or steal your money.

Also, if you receive unsolicited emails claiming to be from the ATO, you should delete them immediately and without opening any attachments, clicking on any links in, or replying to the message. If you do open or click through from an email, you may unwittingly download malicious viruses to your computer.

If you’re unsure whether an email claiming to be from the ATO is legitimate, call them by using contact details you find through legitimate sources, like telephone directories or other official correspondence you might have received. Don’t rely on the contact details provided in the email.

For further information about this ATO online tax refund scam, including pictures of how the message can appear, visit Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) SCAMWatch:  

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