Tax time in Australia often sees a surge in sophisticated scams targeting individuals and businesses. In May alone, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) flagged 1,668 ATO impersonation scams.


As scammers continue to evolve their methods, staying vigilant is crucial to protecting yourself and your business from potential financial losses and data breaches. 

Here’s some simple ways that you can stay safe and be scam-aware this tax time. 


Example of an SMS and email phishing scam. Image: ATO.


Recognising common scams

Scammers employ various methods and tactics, but some common ones include phishing emails, SMS scams, Facebook and social media scams, and phone calls impersonating the ATO. These messages often play on our fears to induce quick reactions.

“Scammers use fake myGov websites to steal your sign-in credentials and gain access to your myGov account,” the ATO says. “Once the scammer has access, they can make fraudulent lodgements in your name and also change bank details so that any payments are redirected to a scammers’ account.”

Phishing scams

‘Phishing’ scams are emails, SMS or social media messages designed to steal your personal information. They appear authentic, using official logos and urgent language to trick you into releasing personal information or clicking on malicious links. 

Here are some different phrases the ATO gave as examples of scam messages:

  • You are due to receive an ATO Direct refund
  • You have a new message in your myGov inbox – click here to view
  • You need to update your details to allow your Tax return to be processed
  • We need to verify your incoming tax deposit
  • ATO Refund failed due to incorrect BSB/Account number
  • Your income statement is ready, click on the link to view

The ATO no longer uses hyperlinks in their correspondence, so this is an easy way to tell if something is a scam. Look out for spelling errors, unusual sender addresses, or unexpected requests for sensitive data.The ATO will never ask for passwords, account numbers or other sensitive data by email or SMS. 

If you believe you are being contacted by an account impersonating the ATO on social media, block and report the account. Take a screenshot and send it to


Aggressive phone calls from scammers impersonating ATO officers aim to scare you into providing your personal details. If unsure, hang up immediately and verify by calling the ATO directly.


Aggressive phone calls

Scammers may call you posing as ATO officials and use threats of legal action or arrest to coerce payments.

The ATO never contacts individuals via phone for such matters. If you are unsure, hang up immediately and verify directly with the ATO on 1800-008-540 or visit their official website.

Unexpected refunds

Messages that claim you have unexpected or generous tax refunds, especially if they request you to click on links, are likely phishing attempts. Remember: if it seems too good to be true, it is! Legitimate refunds can be verified through secure channels like your myGov account or direct correspondence with the ATO.

Protection of Tax File Numbers (TFNs)

Your TFN is sensitive information that scammers may try to exploit to lodge fraudulent tax returns. Only share your TFN with trusted entities that require it for legitimate purposes, such as registered tax agents.


Example of a scam SMS claiming that you are due for a refund. Image: ATO.


Tips for avoiding tax scams

Implementing proactive measures can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to tax-related scams.

Verify contact details 

ATO communication regarding tax matters is primarily through official channels like the myGov inbox or official letters.

If you are unsure about the legitimacy of any communication, contact the ATO directly.

Exercise caution online

Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from unsolicited emails or SMS messages. Instead, manually type official URLs like or into your browser to access services securely.

Enhance security measures

Use strong, unique passwords for online accounts and enable two-factor authentication where possible.

Educate your team

Ensure all employees are aware of common scam tactics and how to recognise them. Encourage a culture of caution when handling sensitive information or responding to unexpected financial requests.

Report suspicious activity

If you suspect you’ve encountered a scam or received fraudulent communication, report it promptly to the ATO via their official channels. This helps in protecting others from falling victim to similar scams.


Young Aussies are most at risk of tax scams, but they can happen to anyone.


Young Aussies most at risk

Interestingly, the ATO says that young Aussies aged 25-34 have been most likely to inadvertently share personal information to ATO impersonation scammers. However, anyone can be a target.

“It can be hard for anyone to spot tax time scams and the fact that young, tech-savvy Aussies are most likely to be the victim of ATO impersonation scammers should be a wake-up call to everyone,” said CPA Australia spokesperson Gavan Ord.

“It’s definitely a good idea to check in with elderly and vulnerable family and friends to make sure they are aware of common scam types, but also remain vigilant yourself. It only takes a momentary lapse in judgement to be a victim.”

By staying informed and adopting proactive measures, you can mitigate the threat of financial fraud and protect sensitive data. Remember, taking a moment to verify communications and transactions can save you and your business from significant losses and operational disruptions. 

For more information and the latest scam alerts, visit the ATO’s official website here.

If you found this piece about tax scams useful, make sure to check out our recent piece on understanding AI bias.