Losses are mounting among residents of Western Australia following a spate of phone threats and voicemails from scammers demanding the payment of a fake tax debt, failing which the victim will be arrested.
So far this year, WA ScamNet at the state’s Consumer Protection office has received 97 reports of tax phone scams, with 15 victims losing a total of $188,200. The highest loss amount by one victim was $60,000.
This compares unfavourably with 2019 figures when $100,450 was lost between 22 victims and a total of 51 reports over the entire year.
Pre-recorded phone messages received
People have reported receiving pre-recorded phone messages claiming to be from a government agency such as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Department of Home Affairs or Services Australia.
The call prompts the receiver to ‘press one’, which takes them through to a person who presents themselves as either working for these agencies or as a case worker dealing with the matter.
The victim is then told that their Tax File Number has been linked to fraudulent activity and a warrant has been issued for their arrest.
Fake calls from nearest ‘police station’
They may also be advised that they have an outstanding tax debt that they must pay immediately, otherwise they will be arrested.
According to the state’s Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Lanie Chopping, in some cases victims are asked what their closest police station is, and they later receive a fake call from that police station.
“The scammers spoof or copy the number of the police station so the victim believes the call is legitimate,” Chopping explained.
Scam victims are kept on the phone
“They are told to go to their bank and withdraw money that will be safeguarded from the fraudulent activity, or that they must pay this money to pay off their outstanding debt. Once funds are withdrawn, they are instructed to purchase gift cards and provide the codes on the back to the caller.
“The victim is usually kept on the phone while they are driving to their bank and retailers to purchase the gift cards. On a few occasions the victim has been asked to convert their funds into crypto-currency and send that via an online wallet.
Chopping said some consumers have been able to work out that it is a scam by calling their local police station directly and confirming that no one at the station had called them about being arrested.