Beware of tax scams: How to make sure you don’t get fleeced

Beware of tax scams: How to make sure you don’t get fleeced

Scams involving tax are not uncommon. They surface regularly. The scams range from the very basic to the quite sophisticated. People and businesses need to be on their toes not to be fooled by the scammers.

Most recently, NSW Fair Trading Minister Stuart Ayres said Fair Trading had received a report of a scam letter offering landlords living overseas the opportunity to claim a tax exemption on rental income.

He said the letter advises agencies managing landlords to forward forms to them to complete and return to the scammers. The forms require detailed personal information as well as photocopies of passports and mortgage account numbers. The covering letter in the scam email is badly written with numerous errors of grammar and spelling (this is not uncommon).

The letters aim to harvest details from real estate agents about Australian properties they manage on behalf of non-residents. The scammers may then seek to assume the identities of the non-residents and sell their Australian properties without the real owners’ knowledge.

Ayres said Fair Trading had issued a warning about the same scam in July last year after it was reported by a real estate agent in Lennox Head. The ATO confirmed the scam to Fair Trading and that identical fake Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs letters had been sent to real estate agents in the United Kingdom since at least March 2012, he said.

The scam letter may also feature fake ATO branding, as well as branding from other revenue jurisdictions (e.g. from HMRC in the UK). Ayres said these types of widely circulated scams are regularly sent to other international jurisdictions and the perpetrators often fail to change all details. A similar scam was identified in Western Australia in 2012.

The HMRC and ATO signature on the scam letters is identical and in some places in the ATO letter, the scammers have failed to replace the HMRC references, he said.

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