Australia is experiencing its own measure of crypto-related fraud where scammers are demanding tax payments through Bitcoin ATMs. To that effect, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on 14 November 2018 published a warning to citizens advising them to be cautious of scammers posing as ATO officials.

Compared to previous years, a higher number of scammers are claiming to be associated with the ATO to defraud unsuspecting victims, according to ATO Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson, who asked Australians to be vigilant for tax scams. She also warned that the ATO will not ask for payments into ATM machines or via gift cards, prepaid cards or direct payments to bank accounts.

Concerns were also voiced by the Assistant Commissioner over the number of citizens sharing personal information – tax file numbers, bank account numbers and dates of birth – with tax scammers, stating that these could increase their susceptibility to fraudulent occurrences. The warning reported that around 6,000 taxpayers have fallen to phishing scams and almost USD 1 million to have been paid to scammers since 1 July 2018.

Payments through cryptocurrency have overtaken iTunes vouchers as the most common method of scam payment. In May, Scamwatch, an Australian consumer watchdog, revealed that Australians had lost around USD 2 million in scams involving cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings, with about USD 1.2 million lost in Bitcoin scams alone. This was due to the increased popularity of cryptocurrency in the last quarter of 2017 which led to a surge in fake ICOs.

Bitcoin ATMs allow customers to exchange cash for the cryptocurrency, with some also allowing customers to sell the cryptocurrency for cash. However, just last month, the headlines were abuzz with news of fraud after scammers defrauded four Australian Immigrants of more than AUD 50,000 (USD 35,000), by convincing them to deposit money into a Bitcoin ATM or alternatively be arrested for nonexistent debts.

Anderson advised citizens to be wary of scammers demanding payments for debts they aren’t aware they owed, as scammers are growing increasingly sophisticated and exploiting vulnerable people, often using aggressive tactics to swindle them out of their money or personal information.

 

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