It has been around since the 80s and even today it is costing Australians tens of millions of dollars per year. According to Scamwatch, in 2016 alone, $88 million have been lost to scams from over 155,043 reported cases.

Today, scammers are concocting more and more creative methods to trick the naive. Some may seem just outright ridiculous, though still unquestionably effective against the unwary few. In the latest Scamwatch study, it was estimated that every year up to $100 million are lost to scams. Although there are victims within every age group, it appears that the number of victims increases progressively with age. The 65+ age group have the highest recorded number of victims with 20,625 reported cases.

And this is the age group target in the latest “Australian Taxation Office” scams.

The ATO Scams

Recently, fraudsters have been reported to cold call elderly victims posing as representatives from the Australian Taxation Office. In the call, scammers would inform their victims that they have outstanding unpaid tax and that in order to avoid imprisonment, they would have to pay with iTunes gift vouchers. Once the gift card details have been received, they would immediately sell it off, reaping a profit.

Deputy Chairman of consumer watchdog the ACCC, Delia Rickard, said that most scammers use intimidation and fear as a weapon in their deceptive undertakings.

As reported by the ABC, one victim, a 74 year-old Richard from regional Victoria remembers picking up his phone and hearing a computer generated voice claiming to be Centrelink. He was then told that there was a system error and that he was owed $2,480 in pension. He was instructed to buy a $300 iTunes gift voucher to retrieve the funds.

In total, the entire scandal resulted in a combined loss of over $540,000 from more than 1,200 people.

Final Thoughts

Advances in technology are allowing for more creative means for scammers to snip money from your pockets. Therefore it is important for you to develop a sound eye for suspicious activity to prevent yourself falling into one of their traps. One obvious sign is the demand for unconventional payment as you saw above.

What are your thoughts on the current scams? Let us know by tagging us at @lawpath or #lawpath.

Tony Zhen

Tony is a legal Intern at LawPath who is working with the contents team to provide legal insight for SMEs. With an interest in contract and business law he is currently completing his Finance and Law degree at the University of New South Wales.