- 24 July, 2015
5 steps to avoid being ripped off by a tax scam
On my return from a recent business trip, I picked up our local newspaper that was sitting on the kitchen bench and was hit by the following front page headline:
“Tax scam rips $43,000 off local pensioner”
The background to the tax scam was a caller, claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office, telephoned the 75 year old pensioner. He said there was a warrant out for her arrest as she owed the Tax Office $9,674.23 (note the precise amount……sound very plausible). The caller instructed her to deposit the money in a number of separate bank accounts.
Wishing to avoid “arrest”, this poor lady complied. To make matters worse, the caller also demanded a copy of certain receipts, and a copy of her driver’s license.
Over subsequent days, the caller demanded further payments, which the lady dutifully made. In the end she had transferred $43,000 to “the tax office” over the course of 11 days.
Our local Council went on to say that reports of scams of this nature are not uncommon. They cite other examples of pensioners receiving calls allegedly from the Council, advising that rates remain unpaid and the pensioner’s discounts for the rates and water concessions are at risk of being removed, if payment isn’t made.
I suppose we could react in one or two ways to reports like this. We could be critical of the victim and ask how could they be so foolish to fall for such a scam, or we could absolutely condemn the “lowlifes” who target the older and more vulnerable members of our community, probably without any conscience or remorse at all.
Personally, I think the answer to ridding our society of such pariahs is to remove the temptation in the first place. To do so, we need to:
- Educate all members of our community about the threats that exist.
- Be vigilant, and take care of our personal possessions, and our identity.
- Be very suspicious of callers purporting to be from Government agencies (or anyone else for that matter) asking for the payment of money, accompanied by a threat of dire consequences such as arrest.
- Never provide personal, bank or credit card details over the phone, particularly if being cold called.
- Be willing to report any suspicious activity we may experience to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or to the local Police.
The headlines that appeared on the front page of my local newspaper go a long way towards increasing the community’s awareness of these scams.
While I have been critical of media sensationalism in the past, the media does perform a useful community service by reporting these types of activities and putting them “front and centre”. As a result, I guess that anyone who read the article will be a little more aware, at least for a little while.
The Realise Your Dream blogs are written by Peter Kelly and Mark Teale. More information about the authors can be found here