Golden Bay woman victim of scam, pays $7000 in iTunes gift cards to scammers posing as ATO

A Golden Bay woman lost $7000 after she paid scammers with iTunes gift cards.
A Golden Bay woman lost $7000 after she paid scammers with iTunes gift cards.

A GOLDEN Bay woman lost $7000 after she paid scammers with iTunes gift cards, according to Consumer Protection.

Acting Commissioner David Hillyard warned residents about phone scammers posing as from the Australian Tax Office (ATO).

He said there was a new trend of unsuspecting residents giving tax debt scammers iTunes cards.

Mr Hillyard said fraudsters, usually overseas, made vulnerable members of the community anxious and stole their money.

“We realise a lot of people will be surprised to hear that a scam victim thinks you can pay the ATO with iTunes gift cards,” he said.

“But I’d ask you to just take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of a person who is perhaps not tech savvy, lacks knowledge of modern payment methods and whose gut reaction is to comply with requests from anyone in a position of authority.

“Rather than blame victims of these scams, what we can do instead is try to educate people.

“Those targeted may be elderly, living in isolation, intellectually disabled, suffering from mental health issues, or migrants who speak English as a second language and are not overly familiar with how the Australian Tax Office operates.”

A 52-year-old woman from Golden Bay reported to Consumer Protection on May 6 that she had bought more than $7000 worth of iTunes cards from a Woolworths store ($3000 on credit card and the rest with cash) to pay off a tax debt and avoid arrest.

It started after she responded in panic to an answering phone message on her landline that she thought was from the ATO.

A subsequent mobile phone call lasted four hours and the scammer claimed the woman was being monitored, that her bank accounts would be seized and she would be taken into custody if she did not cooperate.

Mr Hillyard said anyone truly from the ATO would not behave in this manner.

“If you receive an urgent, aggressive call threatening arrest or legal action over a tax debt, do not be afraid, it is not really the ATO,” he said.

“Scammers may call multiple times or leave voicemail or answering phone messages.

“Our advice if you get a call like this is to put the phone down.”

Mr Hillyard said if people spoke with scammers, they enabled them to obtain information to help them target their victims further.

He said not to respond to numbers supplied in an automated call.

Call the ATO on 1800 008 540 if you receive a suspicious call, or call WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54.