Victims of the recent natural disasters beware, there is an SMS scam circulating that purports to give you “an 8% bonus” on your 2020 tax return. The scam urges victims to start the process by filling out a form and provides a link to a what looks like the genuine myGov website. According to the ATO, this website is fake and this scam is a classic case of scammers impersonating the ATO in an effort to collect personal information including names, birth dates, addresses, emails, phone numbers and online banking login details.

Once this information is obtained, scammers can use it to commit identify theft, including porting your phone, accessing your bank account, obtaining a loan in your name, lodge tax returns, steal your superannuation, commit other types of fraud or they could on sell the information to others to commit these offences.

The ATO notes that over the past few years, it has seen an increasing number of reports of scammers contacting members of the public pretending to be from the ATO by SMS, email and phone. The scams are also becoming more sophisticated, such as the use of software to imitate ATO phone numbers, and the use of a three-way conversation between the scammer, the victim and another scammer impersonating the victim’s tax agent.

If you receive a call from someone saying they are from the ATO but aren’t sure, the best course of action is to hang up and call the ATO back on the appropriate number listed on its website, or call your tax agent on their listed number to seek advice. While the ATO does send SMS, emails and calls taxpayers, remember, the ATO would never:

send an SMS or email asking you to click on a hyperlink to log into myGov or other government websites;

ask for personal identifying information in order to receive a refund;

use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with immediate arrest, jail or deportation;

project its number onto caller ID;

request a payment of a debt via cardless cash, iTunes or Google Play cards, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency, or direct credit to a personal bank account.

If you’ve fallen victim to this or other tax-related scams, there’s no shame, with increasingly sophisticated scams in play, last year over 15,000 people reported to the ATO that they provided scammers with their personal identifying information. The sooner you notify the ATO, the better the outcome.