Phone scammers are impersonating the ATO – here’s what to look out for

  • 7 May 2024
  • by BG Private
  • 5-minute read

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is warning people to be aware of phone scammers pretending to be from the ATO or who are impersonating an accountant or tax agent (like the advisors at BG Private). Here is what to look out for, and what to do if you think a scammer has contacted you.

How the scam works

In this particular scam, the scammers claim you have an outstanding tax debt and may threaten you with arrest if the debt is not paid immediately.

Although phone scams can take many forms, in this case the fraudsters use sophisticated call forwarding technology to make it look like the calls are coming from a legitimate ATO or tax agent phone number.

This number may appear on your caller ID, be left on a voicemail message requesting you call back or be directed by the *69 call back function which allows you to dial your last incoming call automatically.

Here are some examples of how the fraud may take place:

Example 1 provided by the ATO

A robotic-sounding voicemail is left asking the recipient to call back. They might say something like:

“The reason for this call is that there is a lawsuit getting filed under your name. The moment you get this message I want you to get back to me on my department division number.

If we don’t hear from you, we have to issue an arrest warrant under your name and get you arrested so get back to me as soon as possible. Thank you.”

Should you call back, you are asked to transfer money to the scammer to settle the fake debt.

Example 2 provided by the ATO

A scammer left a voicemail for Darren, advising they were from the ATO, and that Darren would go to jail for five years if he did not contact the ATO regarding an outstanding debt.

Darren returned the call on the number provided and was advised to make a payment of $9,000 straight away to avoid jail.

Darren provided the scammer with his tax agent’s number who was supposedly then dialed in by the scammer via a three-way conference call. A man by the name of ‘Michael Grey’ answered claiming he was from the same practice as Darren’s tax agent. Mr Grey said that Darren’s tax agent was in a meeting and not available. A fake conversation was had between Mr Grey and the original scammer with Mr Grey agreeing there was an error with Darren’s tax return and that Darren did indeed owe money to the ATO. Mr Grey told Darren to go to a specific location and pay the $9,000 today. Darren withdrew cash and deposited it into a Bitcoin machine falling victim to the fraud.

What to do if you suspect a scam

  1. If you get a call from the ATO and suspect it may be a scam, hang up and call them back independently on 1800 008 540, or contact your tax agent directly using your usual phone number for them to confirm that the call is not fake
  2. If you get an email from the ATO requesting a payment or personal information, check the email address carefully, and confirm the veracity of the email with your tax agent or by calling the ATO on 1800 008 540 before taking any action
  3. The ATO will never ask you to make a payment via Bitcoin. Here are the legitimate ways to pay the ATO, or ask your tax agent for advice how to make a payment safely
  4. Stop and think before handing over your payment or personal details on the phone to anyone – they could be anyone. It’s always safest to double check the legitimacy of the request by phoning back on a number you can independently verify
  5. An ATO agent will never threaten you with jail or demand immediate payment today for a debt you have never heard about before. Hang up right away, and contact the ATO via 1800 008 540 or contact your tax agent via your usual contact method to seek clarification
  6. If you suspect a scam, you may also like to refer to the ATO’s scam alerts website to see if it is a commonly-known scam. Keep in mind this page may not be exhaustive so remain vigilant
  7. If you receive a suspicious phone call purporting to be from BG Private, please contact us ASAP via +61 3 9810 0700

Contact us

If you suspect a scam involving BG Private, or if you are a client of ours and suspect a scam involving the ATO, please contact us right away via +61 3 9810 0700 or

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