The scammer calls on the phone and says something related to back taxes or tax refunds, then requests for a credit card number to straighten out the problem. This old scam has been updated though, the fraudsters demanding to be paid in a new currency, reported by the Australian Tax Office on their official website.
“We became aware of scammers seeking payment in Bitcoin last year. So far we have seen over $50,000 paid in Bitcoin to scammers claiming fake ATO tax debts,” said Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson in the online notice.
Even though most people know that the tax office isn’t accepting cryptocurrency for settling debts for the time being, the site mentions even more dubious, less legitimate ways in which citizens have been duped into making payments. Some of the other methods people have been fooled is by using iTunes, pre-paid Visa gift cards, and even direct deposit into third-party bank accounts.
“Even more concerning at the moment is that more than half of all losses are a result of scammers convincing taxpayers to make deposits or transfers directly into third-party bank accounts. Roughly $1.2 million was reported lost in this way in 2017.”
Bitcoin and other altcoins have proven to be favoured among online scammers because the transactions remain anonymous from one owner to another. Once the cryptocurrency has been sent it is nearly impossible to find out where the currency was transferred or identify the receiver.
There is an entire army of online scammers that try to fool their victims by promising to increase their Bitcoin holdings overnight by using various methods.
Two common scams in the online environment are Bitcoin flipping and Bitcoin Ponzi schemes. Flipping scams usually involve offering Bitcoin holders the highest possible rate in cash for their cryptocurrency after paying a small registration fee. The cash, obviously, is never given to the payers and very often the Bitcoin is stolen along with the so-called registration fee.
Bitcoin Ponzi schemes work similar to a pyramid scheme except the pay is made in Bitcoin, the payout is non-existent, only for the scammers that usually run of with the earnings. Bitcoin and the other top digital currencies are often used to lure people into giving their personal information. It may come in the form of a key number for your coin or information that is connected to your social media.
The ATO has posted a list of protection measures against such scams, which also includes controlling how you manage your personal information. They also warn against sharing any kind of tax, driver’s license or passport identification numbers, and also to be careful what type of information they post on social media platforms.
Their overall recommendation is to carefully analyse any request from alleged tax officials and to check for their legitimacy. It should be noted that ATO does not accept neither Bitcoin or iTunes gift cards for paying debts or taxes.