Warning after tax scammers turn up at man’s door dressed as police with EFTPOS machine

SA police have issued a warning over scammers impersonating them. Image: Getty

South Australia Police have issued a warning after two scammers turned up at a man’s door impersonating the Federal Police, claiming the target had an unpaid tax debt.

The two scammers also produced an EFTPOS machine, South Australia Police said on Tuesday.

“Police are investigating a scam after two men impersonating federal officers tried to extort money from an Adelaide couple yesterday and want to warn the public,” the police said in a statement.

“At 3pm on Monday 14 October, the victim received an automated phone message telling him he had a tax debt and a warrant had been issued for his arrest. The victim suspected a scam and rang the number back and terminated the call without providing any details.

“About half an hour later, two men appeared at the door of the victim’s Salisbury Downs home. They were wearing blue jackets emblazoned with “Federal Police” and identified themselves as police officers. They told the victim he had a tax debt and produced an EFTPOS machine.”

After the victim challenged the men to provide identification, the scammers fled. No money was stolen.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) confirmed that there was no tax debt, with the police now hunting down the two men.

“Northern District CIB detectives are investigating and ask anyone who saw the two men at Salisbury Downs yesterday or have experienced any similar incidents to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

If you are dealing with police, be it state or federal, and you doubt they are legitimate, ask to see “some identification or ring 131 444 to verify their identity.”

The police also reminded Australians to never provide personal details and financial details to anyone without first checking their identity.

ATO tax scams a growing problem

Scammers have used several methods to steal money from Australians under the pretence that they’re the ATO, with the ATO issuing several warnings.

One scam sees Australians told via WhatsApp that they have a tax debt.

“The scam is the latest twist to the fake tax debt scam where scammers issue a pre-recorded voice message to your phone demanding immediate payment of a tax debt and threatening immediate arrest,” the ATO said.

“In addition to requesting payment via unusual methods, the scammers may also ask call recipients to send a photo of their driver’s licence, passport or other identity credential via WhatsApp.”

Another scam sees victims sent a phishing email that appears to be from the ATO, but is a front for scammers keen to harvest victims’ ATO login details.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch service, Australians have already lost $106 million to scams this year, nearly reaching the $107 million lost to scams in the entirety of 2018, and well above the $90 million lost in 2017.

In its report on scam activity, the ACCC said there was “increasing harm of scams”.

And, it said the cost of scams was actually closer to half a billion once the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network and state and government agencies’ reports were also factored in.

“The true cost of scams is likely much higher as many scams are not reported. The reasons for this vary,” the report said.

“Some scam victims are embarrassed, some are unaware of where to report scams and others may fear the consequences of their own behaviour, particularly if they are manipulated into committing crimes such as money laundering or participating in pyramid schemes.

“Unfortunately, there are also many Australians who are not aware that they are caught up in long-term scams and continue to send money to scammers for years. The losses reported to the government are just the tip of the iceberg.”

The report also highlighted the growth of ATO tax scams, noting that in late 2018, reports of ATO impersonation scams rose 900 per cent, with tens of thousands of Australians reporting ‘robo-call’ scams.

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