A TEACHER says the threat of a $97,000 fine had him thinking he needed to pay $7000 to the man on the other end of the phone.

The Mitchelton man, who wanted to be known as Gary (not his real name), admitted the demand, backed by a claim he would be arrested, had him "really upset".

It started when Gary received an automated message from what looked like a local number. He took a precaution of calling back on a different phone.

The call was answered by a man claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) who told Gary he had a tax debt from previous years which he had to repay immediately or be arrested.

"He did it in very much the same manner that a policeman would read you your charges," Gary said.

"Unfortunately I got suckered into that.

"It got me thinking 'Did I claim for something that I shouldn't have claimed? Did I mistake somewhere?' "

At one point the man told him they had his tax agent, TaxArana, on another line.

"There was a period of time there that they had me convinced," he said.

"They didn't ask for my tax file number (TFN) but I stupidly volunteered it."

Gary admitted the threat of a $97,000 fine threw him.

"That got me really upset," he said.

Luckily his suspicions grew and he ended the call without handing over any money.

"It's absolutely disgusting and absolutely deplorable," he said.

He was worried others, especially older people, might be taken in.

Gary thought his busy job played a big part in marking him vulnerable at that particular time.

"As it was there were a hundred things going on," he said.

TaxArana issued a warning to its clients after Gary told them what had happened.


ATO assistant commissioner Kath Anderson
ATO assistant commissioner Kath Anderson


ATO assistant commissioner Kath Anderson said while the ATO regularly phoned taxpayers, sent emails and SMS's, there were telltale signs that contact was not from the ATO.

Ms Anderson said the ATO would not:

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

request payment of a debt via iTunes, prepaid visa cards, cryptocurrency (for example bitcoin ATM) or direct credit to a bank account with a BSB that is not either 092-009 or 093-003;

request a fee in order to release a refund; or

send an email or SMS asking to click on a link to provide login, personal or financial information, or to download a file or open an attachment."


To check if a call or message is genuine, phone the ATO's scam line on 1800 008 540.

Last October the ATO issued a warning that scammers were using technology to make it look like the calls originated from a legitimate ATO phone number.

Anyone who has given their TFN to someone who should not have it, or if they suspect someone is misusing their TFN, should phone the ATO's client identity support centre on 1800 467 033.

For more advice, go to ato.gov.au/general/online-services/identity-security/scam-alerts/

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which monitors scam activity, said Australians reported losing $107 million to scams last year.

Investment scams raked in the most in 2018, nearly $39 million, with romance scams claiming the second biggest amount, just under $25 million.

You can report any type of scam at scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam .

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