A tax scam hits Margaret River

Beware of scammers during tax time

An aggressive phone scam is targeting the pockets of Augusta and Margaret River residents. 

The scammer, who goes by the name of Alex King, claims to be from the Australian Tax Office and states criminal charges are pending due to unpaid taxes.

Augusta Margaret River Mail played along with King’s scam attempting to get more information but was stonewalled.

King said, “You have been called because the police department has an warrant for your arrest, you may be aware of this and they are very serious charges.".

To avoid being arrested, he asked for some details for his records but when questioned about who he was and why he was calling King became angry.

“Do not take that tone with me,” he said.

“I am hanging up the phone.”

The Australia Tax Office is aware of several types of scam calls around this time and the Department of Commerce says it is a common tactic that preys on senior citizens.

In May 2015 Consumer Protection/WA ScamNet received 300 calls about ATO scams over West Australia, an increase on 145 recorded calls from January to April 2015.

People who received the phone call have reported the incident on social media to warn others. The scam seems to unfold the same way each time.

“Consumer Protection is concerned the threatening nature of the ATO scam calls is intimidating many in our community,” Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard.

“The most recent tactic has been aggressive threats of court action, an arrest warrant or even prison for tax evasion unless money is paid as soon as possible.

“This is the time of year when you may think a call from the ATO about your tax return is not unusual.  Don’t be tricked into transferring money for any reason.”

How to avoid scams

Consumer Protection Department of Commerce has provided some tips to avoid becoming part of a scam. 

The ATO would never contact people in such an aggressive and demanding way and certainly wouldn’t threaten jail or arrest if you couldn’t pay when contacted. Nor would the ATO demand that people load money onto a prepay card at the post office.

Generally the ATO would send an SMS and or letter to remind people that payment was due. If they don’t get a response from this, they would then call to discuss payment of the outstanding debt.

There are three simple steps people can take if they have any concerns or suspicions:

1.      Confirm the caller’s name and title and why they are calling.

2.      Call the ATO switchboard on 13 28 69 and ask to be put through to the person who just called you.

3.      Most importantly, never send money or give financial details to someone you don’t know or trust.