A scam call claiming to be from Centrelink has caused concern for a Grafton woman.
A scam call claiming to be from Centrelink has caused concern for a Grafton woman. Pixabay

Tax scammers target Clarence Valley

WHEN Jenny Hall had a missed call on her phone and a message claiming to be from Centrelink regarding an adjustment to some payments, she didn't give a second thought in calling back.

However, Ms Hall was quickly sceptical of the man who had answered the phone when she called back, and when he called her a f------ b---- after his legitimacy was questioned, her suspicions were confirmed.

"I thought the message was for my dad so I rang back, and they gave me a number to call and a claim number so I thought it sounded real," Ms Hall said.

"I rang the number and some guy answered the phone, and at one point we got cut off so I called back and the same person answered and I thought that was strange,.

"He claimed they went through some records and taxes were linked to Centrelink, which I said was strange because I get an accountant to do my taxes.

"Then he started saying that I needed to get a lawyer because I had a big tax bill. I said wait there, and I asked for his name and started asking him some questions. I said I wanted to talk to his superior and he said that he was in charge and that's when I knew he was lying.

"I told him I thought he was a scammer, and I told him I had given him a false name and a false address and then he was I was nothing by a f------ b---- and hung up."

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's Scamwatch website, reports of tax scams involving phone calls or emails threatening arrest or jail over unpaid tax debts have jumped significantly during the past month.

Most of these scams occur over the phone. People get a call from an aggressive scammer directly or receive a robotic-sounding voice message informing them they need to contact a phone number in relation to an outstanding tax debt, or face imminent arrest and jail time.

The scammer pretends to be from the Australian Tax Office or the police to scare people into believing the contact is real. They will tell people to buy gift cards like iTunes or Google Play to 'pay' the tax debt or a fine. They may also get people to send money by other methods like Bitcoin ATMs or pre-paid credit cards.

This is a scam. The tax office will never threaten you with arrest, or demand immediate payment of a tax debt or fine with unusual payment methods like gift cards or Bitcoin.

Ms Hall said the scammer sounded legitimate, and feared other people may go along with their story.

"It's worrying because older people who might not know what's going on could easily fall for it," she said.

"I nearly got sucked in and I feel like I know what's going on so it's dangerous. It needs to get out there that people need to be careful don't give details out to anyone who asks."

If you or someone you know receives a suspicious phone call or email, report it to www.scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam. If you're concerned the contact may be legitimate, you can also call the ATO on 1800 008 540.