ATO Warns Citizens Of Bitcoin Tax Payment Scam
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) is in charge of all tax related filings and assists Australian residents with their taxes.
The agency recently sent out a warning cautioning residents that there is a new scam going around where scammers impersonate tax officials who threaten people with jail time unless their tax debts are paid immediately via bitcoin.
The scam plays itself out in a very interesting manner. It focuses on surprise and fear to have the victims respond in a particular way. For example in a recent case, a victim was contacted out of the blue by a scammer claiming that they owed the Australian government AU$9000 in taxes. They were then threatened with five years in prison if they did not pay immediately.
When the victim was pressured, they divulged details that allowed the scammers to contact the victim’s tax agent in order to clear things up. The scammer then supposedly called the agent but he was supposed to be in a meeting. Another individual, most likely an accomplice, then presented themselves as a legitimate tax agent and supported all of the scammer's assertions. The victim was then fooled into withdrawing AU$9,000 and depositing it in a nearby Bitcoin ATM.
Tax debts are not the only thing that the scammers are using as an excuse for their threats. Reports of similar scams have the caller claiming to collect on iTunes balance, pre-paid visa cards, and gift cards from stores. The ATO said the best way to be protected from this scam is to be familiar with your tax details. If you are knowledgeable about what exactly you owe and what is owed to you.
Being paid in bitcoin is becoming a common trait in most scams taking place these days. The ease of transactions and the difficulty of tracing them attract many criminals who find it easier to evade the authorities by relying on bitcoin.
In a statement, Kath Anderson, the assistant commissioner of the ATO,
We became aware of scammers seeking payment in Bitcoin last year. So far, we have seen over $50,000 paid in Bitcoin to scammers claiming fake ATO tax debts
Australians need to be aware that scammers are not completely relying on bitcoin as a scam operation.
Earlier this year, the ATO also warned about scammers claiming to be tax officials and putting pressure on them to pay up via different modes. The best way to avoid being scammed is to double check any claims being made and verify credentials thoroughly.