Tax

ATO warns on tax scams: Here’s a story of “Michael Anderson”, an ABC host and an phone call filled with the F word

Emma Koehn /

An ABC radio host has been told to “go and f*** your mum” after telling a suspected scammer claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) that he was recording a phone call with him, in another reminder for Australians to remain vigilant if contacted by individuals who say they have their tax information.

ABC Illawarra reports local presenter Nick Rheinberger received a voicemail this week from an individual claiming to be “Michael Anderson” from the ATO. The man informed Rheinberger there was a problem with his tax accounts and asked him to return the call before the matter was escalated to district court.

Rheinberger did so, hitting record on the conversation first. He gave the individual his mobile phone number when requested, then informed him that he was recording the phone call.

The man claiming to be “Michael Anderson” responded by telling him to put the recording “into your ass”.

“So go and get f***ed, go and f*** your mum,” the man said before the call ended.

Rheinberger said he wanted to highlight a suspected ATO scam. When the name “Michael Anderson ATO” is typed into search engines, multiple complaints about suspected scam activity surface.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch tracker estimates $159,000 has been lost so far this year due to scams that make threats to life or arrest.

The ATO has its own set of statistics on tax-specific scams, having registered more than 17,000 reports over the past year and around $1.5 million has been lost to scam activity over this time.

When asked by SmartCompany what individuals should expect if the tax office genuinely does have concerns about an account, the ATO explained that scammers are increasingly looking up genuine ATO phone numbers and setting up calls that appear to come from legitimate tax office lines.

In a statement on the issue, ATO assistant commissioner Kath Anderson said that while the tax office may well contact taxpayers by phone, individuals should check caller IDs carefully.

“While we do make thousands of calls per week to the community, our outbound calls do not project numbers on caller ID. If one appears, it’s most likely a scam,” she said.

Anderson told SmartCompany the tax office does leave voicemails on occasion, but if taxpayers are unsure about the authenticity of such messages, they should contact the office directly.

“From time to time we may contact taxpayers by phone, and in some circumstances we may leave a voicemail requesting a call back. However, if you are in doubt about the authenticity of a call or voice that you receive claiming to be from the ATO, you can call us on 1800 008 540 to verify,” she says.

Other areas of concern are text message and email scams asking individuals to send back their personal information to clarify some concern about their tax accounts.

On this front, the ATO says you should never directly text back to or email information about yourself to anyone claiming to be from the tax office. If a request for information or a phone call seems confusing, the advice is to hang up and call the office back yourself, where a representative will reconnect you if the call does turn out to be legitimate.

Over the past year, a range of service providers, from the National Broadband Network to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission have been impersonated by suspected scammers. Scamwatch places the total amount lost to fraudulent activity so far this year at $57 million.

The ATO advises that if an individual feels they or someone close to them has been caught out by a potential scam, they should contact the tax office by calling their general customer service line.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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  • Have recorded and reported the same phone number and ATO scam details for two years. I do not understand why it is so hard to capture these people. Assuming that there is not some technical cut through that makes it possible to use an an Australian landline number whilst over seas.