|Posted on 11 October, 2015 at 1:35|
A Perth businessman felt his "heart race" and then his "stomach churn" after he received a message on his answering machine from the Australian Taxation Office telling him his arrest was "imminent".
But the savvy financial consultant soon clued on to the fact he had been targeted by a conman pretending to be Jason O'Connor from the ATO.
"I knew they wouldn't string someone up like that," the businessman said.
"They would write a letter first.
"Then there's the other stuff, the accent and his terminology.
"But, yeah, it scared the s--t out of me."
The businessman, who said he did not want to be named in a story associated with a tax scam, is not the first person to be targeted by the man pretending to be Jason O'Connor.
The con starts with a grim warning.
"This is Jason O'Connor calling you from the Australian Tax Office," the message began.
"The nature of the purpose of this call is just to inform you that a law suit has been filed against your name concerning a tax evasion...
"Before things go wrong against you, before one of the police officers from the local police department contacts you and issues a warrant for your arrest, call 02 6140 3445."
The businessman, who has been a financial consultant for more than 30 years, said the man gave the game away through his unusual accent and his use of phrases.
He said "Mr O'Connor" employed foreign terms, such as "contact your attorney", redundant ones, like "a legal lawsuit has been filed against you", and phrases, such as "the Commonwealth Department of Public and Prosecutions", which were simply wrong.
The businessman said he called "Mr O'Connor" back and tried to play him at his own game – deception.
He told "Mr O'Connor" that he also worked for the tax office and suggested they catch up for a coffee. But "Mr O'Connor" declined the offer and hung up the phone.
Others have not been so lucky.
WA's Department of Consumer Protection said an 81-year-old man looking after his sick wife was recently conned out of $110,000 by the tax-scam con – the largest loss of this type of scam in the state's history.
Threats were also made of the potential loss of employment of his three children, according to consumer protection.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll said, with more than 800 calls received about the ATO scam, she was alarmed by the huge increase in reported losses resulting from the scam.
"I am concerned that the increasingly threatening nature of the ATO scam calls is intimidating many in our community, including seniors, with the urgent demands forcing victims to respond and lose their money to these heartless and ruthless criminals," Ms Driscoll said.
"The ATO scam has been around for many years but I am disturbed that the scammers have now heightened their threatening tactics to coerce their victims into transferring money in order to pay fictitious tax bills or get fictitious refunds or rebates.
"The most recent tactic has been hostile threats of court action, an arrest warrant or even prison for tax evasion unless money is paid as soon as possible."
The Australian Taxation Office was also concerned. Second Commissioner Geoff Leeper urged the public to be cautious when dealing with cold callers.
"We make thousands of outbound calls to taxpayers a week, but there are some key differences to a legitimate call from the ATO and a call from a potential scammer," said Mr Leeper.
"We would never cold call you about a debt, we would never threaten jail or arrest and our staff certainly wouldn't behave in an aggressive manner. If you're not sure, hang up and call us back on 13 28 69."
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