Australians gave $2.1 million to someone they thought was the ATO

Criminals are pretending to be the tax office to scam money out of Australians. (Image: Getty)

The Australian Taxation Office has warned Australians to not fall for scammers pretending to be debt collectors at this time of the year.

With tax returns due end of October, many people owed money to the tax office due in November. And unscrupulous types are taking advantage of this, to threaten money out of unsuspecting victims.

So far this year $2.1 million have been handed over to scammers from 622 people who thought they were paying the ATO.

Last year about $2 million was lost over the November to January period.

"I’m particularly concerned about the sophistication these scammers keep showing," said assistant commissioner Karen Foat.

"They are getting better at impersonating large organisations and ramp up in periods where people expect to hear from us, to make their threats appear more legitimate."

Phone, email and SMS have been traditionally popular ways for criminals to wrangle victims, but WhatsApp and cardless ATM withdrawals are emerging as new methods.

"Through this feature, victims are sent codes to withdraw cash from an ATM, which they then read out to the scammer," said Foat.

"One Sydneysider was duped out of $500 through this tactic. After a client alerted him that he was scammed, he reported the incident to us."

Many impersonators would intimidate victims with an aggressive tone, threatening them with arrest, prison sentence or deportation, which the real tax office would never do.

The ATO would also never project its number on caller ID, nor demand payment through cardless ATM withdrawals, iTunes and Google Play vouchers, prepaid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or a direct transfer.

"The ATO will always let you know how much you owe and the due date when we send your notice of assessment," said Foat.

"If you’re unsure, you can check if you have a legitimate debt anytime by logging into your myGov account, or by contacting us or your tax agent."

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