The Australian Tax Office published an announcement on Wednesday to warn the public about scammers that impersonate agency officials and tell victims they owe taxes on cryptocurrency investments.
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) appears to be facing issues with scammers who impersonate its officials to trick people into paying them.
The scammers approach cryptocurrency holders, tell them about taxes they supposedly owe, and provide rather dubious methods of payments, including but not limited to iTunes cards and pre-paid Visa gift cards.
“We became aware of scammers seeking payment in Bitcoin last year. So far we have seen over $50,000 paid in Bitcoin to scammers claiming fake ATO tax debts,” said ATO assistant commissioner Kath Anderson.
She noted that the problem was exacerbated by the fact that scammers can get away with a lot since it is generally impossible to refund Bitcoin losses.
“In 2017, the ATO received over 80,000 reports of scams, with taxpayers reporting almost $2.4 million lost to scammers claiming to be from the ATO. Over $900,000 worth of iTunes gift cards were reportedly paid to scammers—by almost one-third of all victims. We are hoping that the new warnings Apple is including on their gift cards will help people realize the ATO doesn’t accept payment in iTunes cards,” Anderson added.
Australians are being asked to phone 1800 008 540 to verify the legitimacy of any ATO call or request.
It seems rather strange to picture someone paying their taxes with iTunes gift cards, but when the taxman calls someone’s home, rational thoughts tend to disappear.
Posing as a tax agency official might get a lot of gullible people to open their wallets, but this is not the first cryptocurrency-related con in Australia.
About a month ago, the Auscoin scam was exposed because of its obviously shameless marketing tactics and some inconsistencies with how Sam Karagiozis — the man behind the hoax — chose his audience.
Instead of picking cryptocurrency-savvy individuals, the Auscoin scam pandered to demographics not typically interested in the phenomenon.