Warning: Police Phone Numbers Being Used In New Phone Scam
A new variation of the sophisticated ATO scam -- which has seen Australians duped out of millions of dollars -- has emerged, sparking an urgent warning from police.
The new scam involves Queenslanders threatened with a call from someone pretending to be from the tax office and demanding payment, before being called a second time from a police station number confirming the earlier threat.
Police have advised that an easy way to work out that a call is fake is if the caller asks for payments in gift cards or vouchers -- a method police and authorities will never use.
"A Queensland Police Station phone number is now being used to confirm the threat that was delivered earlier and also to ask for payment to be made by way of gift cards," Detective Superintendent Terry Lawrence from the Financial and Cyber Crime Group said on Thursday.
Police said the scam follows a similar pattern to the ATO impersonation scam that has become a growing issue in Australia in the past few years.
People will receive a call from someone posing as an ATO employee, asking for money and claiming there is a warrant out for unpaid fees. The scammer will then ask the victim what their local police station is.
A second call will then be made to the victim later, from a person claiming to be an officer, who provides a registration number before confirming to the victim that there is a warrant out in their name for a certain amount of dollars.
Lawrence said people who have caller identification will be able to see the second number appears to come from the number of the Queensland Police Station they had earlier identified to the first caller.
He said victims may be able to identify the scam because the callers will ask to pay the fee or fine in gift cards.
"Just know, no government agency, law enforcement or any legitimate organisation will ask you to pay them in gift cards,” he said.
Lawrence also said people who believe they may have been targeted by the scam should themselves call their local police station to confirm if there is a warrant out in their name -- but warned to look-up the police number themselves and not to hit redial.
While the number of reports of the scam has been small so far, one person has already been duped out of $4000 and police fear the scam variation is only just emerging, meaning many more people could still be targeted.
"Obviously they are distressed because they have lost money," Lawrence said of the victims.
He said it was, unfortunately, "very easy" for scammers to use this practice, known as 'caller ID spoofing' -- and said other government agencies and businesses have also had their numbers used in the past for similar scams.
An investigation has been launched into who is behind the new scam, but it is not yet clear whether the calls are being made from Australia or abroad.
Authorities have already received 121 reports of the ATO scam in Queensland alone this year, totalling a loss of $173,000.
Last month the ATO warned it had so far received 40,225 reports of impersonation scams already this year, with just over $1 million in losses.
It comes after the ACCC said scammers had swindled Australians a whopping half a billion dollars in 2018.