The scammers called my mother-in-law’s phone advising that they were from the ATO and that she owed $4000 tax debt. They were very demanding and hostile. My mother-in-law has English as her second language and was very worried, as they threatened her saying the police were coming to arrest her. They demanded she go to a petrol station and purchase the gift cards. She purchased $3000 iTunes, $500 Google Play and $500 Steam cards. They then sent WhatsApp messages to her requesting photos of the cards be sent, which she did. They then requested more money and more cards to which she declined and contacted family.
Signs this was a scam
- The threats of arrest and request for unusual payment methods were the signs that this was a scam.
- The Australian Tax Office (ATO), government agencies and any legitimate business will never threaten you with arrest, or demand immediate payment of a tax debt or fine with unusual payment methods like gift cards, Bitcoin or pre-paid credit cards.
Avoid this type of scam
- Hang up the phone or delete the email if you ever get a call or email claiming you will be arrested due to a tax debt. Do not call the number provided in the phone message or email you receive.
- Hang up immediately even if you're concerned that the phone call may be legitimate — call the ATO on 1800 008 540 to check.
*The story above is based on one or more real scam reports received by the ACCC. For privacy purposes the names and images of victims have not been used.
Have you been scammed?
If you think you've been scammed or know someone who has, report it to the ACCC using our report a scam page.
If you have lost money, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.