The new scam targeting Australians at tax time

The new scam targeting Australians at tax time As tax time approaches, Australians have warned about scams so sophisticated that a third of people are failing to spot them.

A former bookkeeper and her son have joined a growing cohort of Australians who have fallen prey to sophisticated tax time scams.

Cathyrn Stavert, who manages her son Christopher's accounts while he works overseas, received a text about her son's refund and initially thought it was a fake message.

But when she called the tax office, she discovered someone had lodged a tax return on his behalf.

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"If I didn't respond in two days, they were going to release an amount up to $7000," Stavert told 9News Queensland.

Stavert discovered thieves had hacked his myGov account, lodged a fake tax return and changed both his email and home address.

The hackers then opened bank accounts with his information in order to receive his bogus $7000 refund.

Cyber specialist David Lacey said about 80 per cent of victims had no idea how hackers gained access to their myGov accounts and stole their identities.

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"ATO scams where people are being impersonated to get access to a return before you submit a return yourself, we've had about 3000 cases so far this calendar year," Lacey said.

"That's fairly consistent with what we saw last year.

"But we find with these types of scams, it ramps up significantly during July and October each year because that's when people are submitting their tax returns and finding out someone has already done it for them.

"The tax office says you've already claimed your return for the year and that's often the detection point for many Australians that are caught up in these types of scams."

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Lacey said often people have engaged with a criminal via a sophisticated scam text message or email that impersonates myGov or the tax office.

"They click on a link, they go to a website that impersonates the government and they put in the very details the criminals need to submit the tax returns themselves," he said.

"The thing about these scams is there's probably no Australian that has not heard of Services Australia, myGov or the tax office, we all have.

"Scammers prey upon brands that most of the population know and are engaging with, which is why this time of year we start seeing these scams relating to the tax office definitely escalate.

"This is not a one-off criminal, this is international organised crime at its worst."

The Australian Tax Office has admitted it is struggling to keep up as scams become more sophisticated.

It is estimated more than half a billion dollars has been stolen by thieves lodging fake tax returns over the past three years.

"This year, so far we've had seven and a half thousand reports of different scams to the ATO, so that's about 45 a day," ATO assistant commissioner Rob Thomson said.

Anyone who receives a text message should call the ATO about the details being changed and have more than one contact phone number.

More than a year later, Cathryn and her son are still locked out of his myGov account.

"I thought the ATO would be the last to ever get hacked," Stavert said.

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