An Idiot’s Guide To Not Falling For An ‘ATO’ Scam, From Someone Who Almost Did

How To Know If You're Being Scammed By ATO, Was I Scammed?

Hi, my name is Michael, and a few weeks ago I was scammed by someone I believed (at the time) was the Australian Tax Office. And no, I don’t mean that I received a random phone call and then hung up on them… I was scam scammed. Almost lost thousands. This is my story.

Let me paint a picture of how gullible my ass was. I fled work immediately in a panic. I left my house. I caught two Ubers and I went straight to the bank. I went so far down the line of the scheme that I spoke to three different scammers.

Hopefully, my advice, and the tragedy that is my dumb brain, can help you avoid getting similarly messed up by the fake ATO. Lord knows I needed an article like this in my life, so here I am making one.

How Do I Know I’m Being Scam Called?

Now, first of all, it’s pretty easy to detect a run-of-the-mill scam call. They’re quite obvious, and have a tinge of urgency, immediacy and unprofessionalism that just won’t come from government officials. Let’s be clear on one thing, if the actual ATO or police are calling you, they will be calm, and will never threaten your immediate arrest over the phone, (I wish I knew this back then.)

This call, however, caught me off guard. The scammers are learning folks, and are constantly adopting new tricks to prey on fear and people who are easily intimidated by law enforcement. That’s me, Mr Goody Two Shoes who never gets in trouble for anything.

My call started off with a robotic voice that told me I was under criminal investigation, and that I needed to press 1 to speak immediately to an ATO official or face immediate arrest for my crimes. What crimes exactly? Allegedly, my tax file number was being used under 28 different accounts for ‘drug trafficking’, ‘money laundering’ and ‘sex trafficking’. Yes, it was incredibly intense stuff, and I was shit scared.

Learn from my stupidity here for a sec. The first giveaway is the robotic voice threatening arrest. This will never happen in an actual call from the ATO. Hang up immediately.

If you do not, however, because you are convinced that the robotic voice is serious, like I was, here are your next steps to picking up a fake.

What Will A Scam Call Ask Of You?

My scammers were so good in that they stressed that they couldn’t ask for my card details because that was “illegal over the phone.” This immediately convinced me that they weren’t after my money and that I could trust them, which was a ploy to gain my trust.

The first man who spoke to me gave me a badge number, a fake name and everything, and spoke to me in a demeaning and threatening voice, constantly making me aware of the fact that I was in big trouble because of crimes attached to my tax file number, and that he wanted to help me prove my innocence in the matter.

The key phrase they use is “we want to protect your hard-earned money” or “if you claim to be innocent, we’d like to help you.” They’ll ask for very basic things like the last three numbers of your tax file number, your living situation and address, and how much money is in your bank account. Questions that aren’t too invasive, so you trust them. Yes, I told them everything. However, PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS. Hang up immediately if they ask for this information

What Tricks Are Employed To Further Fool You?

My guy, whose name was allegedly Michael Roy (fkn bullshit), asked me to give him the number of my local police station, so he could “fax a report” immediately to them, and that they’d then give me a call. He told me to answer the phone immediately when it next called, and hung up. I waited, scared as fuck, for the police station to call me.

I answer the phone to an alleged local officer from “Balmain Police Station” (it wasn’t), who sounded very calm and level-headed, and told me that they understood my panic, and were here to help me in the situation. This wrapped me up in the scheme even more, as I was suddenly not afraid of arrest, and willing to comply to save my money from scammers. Ironic, isn’t it.

My ‘officer’ put me onto a ‘legal official’, who told me that if I wanted to cooperate and resist being held in immediate custody by police, I had to listen to her and not hang up. Still, I was too afraid to even think for myself, and the scammers made sure I was so quickly strung along from phonecall to phonecall that I didn’t have time to talk to my housemate, my workmates or even my family.

If I had this time, the people I trust probably would’ve told me it was a scam straight away.

What Will These Losers Make You Do?

Long story short, the final stage is them getting you to withdraw all of your money into physical form, and then depositing it into another bank account.

They will word this to you however as ‘safeguarding’ your real account’s money before they immediately shut down all 28 of your illegal accounts that are under investigation for worldwide crimes.

Basically, unless you comply, your money will be lost forever and you will be a main suspect for the crimes they allege you committed. To protect your funds, you’ll need to put it in a new account under your name, and wait to receive a new tax file number. It’s all fake, please hang up. However, I still did not.

No government official will ever ask you to touch or move your money over the phone for any reason whatsoever. They will not ask you to immediately travel to your nearest bank. They will not force you to stay on the phone like you’re some kind of mafia puppet enacting a terrible crime.

Fun side note, I told my scammer that my phone was dying, and she told me not to hang up, so I was bricking it. Immediately she told me to go buy a portable charger, and asked if I was mocking the dutiful process of the law. I also ran to my nearest bank, which is strictly machines only, and she called me an idiot over the phone.

“Are you an idiot? You cannot withdraw all your money from a machine. You’re clearly not taking this seriously.”

Folks, when the scammers are calling you an idiot and you still don’t ask yourself if they’re legit or not, maybe you are an idiot. (You can join me in the idiots’ club.)

ATO scam idiot

What Happens If You Go All The Way?

Basically, there is no safe account in your name. This account is one set up by the scammers to basically just take all of your money. Every single cent. They don’t even ask for half of it, these fuckers are greedy.

The scammer on the phone told me that when I went up to the “lady at the bank”, I could not tell her why I was withdrawing all my money. Obviously, I asked why the hell not (I’m not that dumb), and she said it was because I was still under investigation, and as a CRIMINAL, the bank won’t let me secure my money if they knew of the CRIMES I’ve committed.

They really treat you like shit over the phone, because it’s all part of the ploy to make you feel bad for things you’ve never done. In fact, it makes you want to prove yourself innocent even more.

If you ever walk into a bank with someone on the phone saying “take out all your money”, stop right there and hang up, or start asking further questions. Basically, this is what I did, after catching an Uber from my local bank to one with actual people. When it comes to withdrawing, I will never do so unless I’m 100% sure that my money is safe. I suddenly had an epiphany at the steps of the bank, and hung up straight away.

What Do You Do After Getting A Scam Call

Firstly, call the ATO and visit its website straight away. You can report the fake numbers that called you, and also check your tax file number to ensure that your accounts are all safe, and aren’t actually being used by worldwide criminal drug traffickers who have somehow found your Aussie TFN.

You can also report the scam to the ACCC, by filling out a quick and easy form that will help towards putting an end to overseas scammers.

Then, call your bank and make sure you cancel your card and get a new one. Be sure that money has not been taken out of the account at all, and start changing your passwords. Then change your social media passwords and security.

Finally, for extra security and peace of mind, call your local police station and check if they actually called you. That’s what I did, and the lovely person at Balmain Police Station (thank you, you goddamn saint) will let you know that you’ve almost just been scammed out the wazoo.

Once your accounts are safe, you can call your mum and have a good laugh about the whole thing. And then maybe sit down and stop shaking, after all, you probably just ran/drove to a bank on a day you didn’t think you’d even leave the house.

Post-ATO scam call mood to laugh off the anxiety

If you need me, I’m going to be absolutely floored at the fact that I was this dumb. But hey, at least I have a story out of it, right?