From impersonating as Elon Musk on Twitter to calling citizens as tax authority representatives, scammers are testing every avenue to dupe people out of cryptocurrency. Amid the rising number of such scam victims, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has issued a warning to the public to beware of scammers impersonating the ATO and demanding Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies as a form of payment for fake tax debts.
According to the statement released by the ATO, Australian citizens have paid more than $50,000 to Bitcoin scammers impersonating ATO representatives. However, such scams are not constrained to the Southern Hemisphere, as last year a Canadian woman was conned and tricked into sending $12,000 to scammers using a Bitcoin ATM.
In a statement, Kath Anderson, the Assistant Commissioner of the ATO, said: “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.”
This new scamming tactic using cryptocurrencies soared in late 2017 in Australia as digital currencies saw a massive boom.
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“Cryptocurrency operates in a virtual world, and once the scammers receive payment, it’s virtually impossible to get it back. Scammers are constantly adapting their methods to maximize their chances of picking your pocket. Unfortunately, it was inevitable that scammers would target cryptocurrency given its current popularity and anonymity,” Ms. Anderson added.
iTunes to Bitcoin
Bitcoin and other digital coins are not the only choices for scammers to demand money from potential victims. iTune gift cards and prepaid VISA gift cards remain popular options, among others.
Ms. Anderson added: “In 2017, the ATO received over 80,000 reports of scams, with taxpayers reporting almost $2.4 million lost to scammers claiming to be from the ATO. Over $900,000 worth of iTunes gift cards were reportedly paid to scammers – by almost one-third of all victims. We are hoping that the new warnings Apple is including on their gift cards will help people realize the ATO doesn’t accept payment in iTunes cards.”
“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,” she continued.
Moreover, the ATO is concerned as in many cases the scammers convince the victims to share their personal information such as their Tax File Number.
“Remember, your personal information is like the keys to your identity – guard it carefully,” Ms. Anderson added.