Despite a scam alert issued by the Australian Taxation Office late last month, fraudsters impersonating employees of the tax body have still managed to con victims thousands of dollars.
Per Australian newspaper reports, four victims have so far lost amounts totaling AU$50,000 on the understanding that they were settling a tax debt. According to detectives at Maribyrnong Crime Investigation Unit, all the victims hail from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.
The fraudsters not only informed the victims that they had a tax debt that required to be paid, but they also suggested that failure to settle it immediately would attract a jail sentence. The victims were then instructed to travel to Braybrook, a suburb in the city of Maribyrnong, Melbourne to a particular bitcoin ATM and deposit funds. It was not immediately clear why the fraudsters chose the particular bitcoin ATM operated by digital services firm D Konnect since there are 21 cryptocurrency ATMs in the city of Melbourne.
Threats and Deception
In the four cases, some of the tactics the scammers employed included informing victims that the tax debt had been confirmed by their accountant or that the federal police had already been notified of the outstanding tax debt and that they would take the appropriate action if it was not immediately paid. This fits in with previous reporting by CCN where one of the victims was informed via telephone by a scammer that he owed the tax body AU$9,000. The con artist then faked a conversation with the victim’s accountant who ‘confirmed’ the tax debt.
According to law enforcement officials, the scammers have been preying on the vulnerable as most of the victims targeted were newly-arrived immigrants.
“It does appear that the scammers are targeting a certain group of people who they can convince that their immigration status is in jeopardy,” Katherine Lehpamer, a detective at Maribyrnong, told the Herald Sun.
The police now believe that there could be many more victims who have been swindled but who either haven’t realized it or are hesitant to report.
“We believe that there are a number of victims out there who have not reported the matter for one reason or another, they may be here on visas or they are not aware that authorities would never tell them to deposit money into an ATM,” added Lehpamer.
In carrying out the scam, the scammers are banking on the ignorance of victims since the Australian Taxation Office does not, under any circumstances, accept bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies for payment of taxes. As previously reported by CCN, the accepted methods of paying taxes in Australia include electronic bill payment platform BPAY or credit-debit cards besides alternative methods such as wire transfer and direct debit.