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Australian Tax Refund Scam Email

Email, purporting to be from the Australian Taxation Office, claims that the recipient can receive a large tax refund by clicking a link in the message and filling out a web based form.

Ato Refund Scam


Brief Analysis
This email is a phishing scam. The message is not from the Australian Taxation Office. The promised refund does not exist. The scam email is designed to trick recipients into clicking a link or opening an attachment and submitting their private personal and financial information on a bogus website. Information submitted on the bogus website can be harvested by Internet criminals and used to commit fraud and identity theft.

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Example (March 2013)
Subject: Tax Refund - $302.19 AUD * Online e-Tax #30234788

Dear [email address removed] ,

ATO Scam 2013
After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have discovered that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $302.19 AUD. Kindly complete the tax refund request and allow 6-9 working days to process it.

A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.

To access the form for your tax refund, please visit:
[link removed]

Important note about your online refund:

For security reasons, we will record your ip-address, the date and time. Deliberate wrong inputs are criminally pursued and persecuted. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Encryption

Extended Validation Secure Socket Layer, or EVSSL for short, means that our site has undergone many rigorous checks to confirm its validity, and has been provided with a 'certificate of authenticity' which can be recognised by your browser.


Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

Example (March 2012)
Subject: Australian Taxation Office

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund.

Please submit the tax refund request.
See your refund status
Australian Taxation Office

Example (March 2011)
From: Australian Taxation Office
Subject: Refund Update

Progress of income tax return.

After calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund.

Find out about the progress of income tax returns by downloading attachment.


Administrative Department Team
Australian Taxation Office

© Copyright 2011, Australian Taxation Office

Example (January 2010)
Subject: Australian Taxation Office - Tax Refund Form 2009

Australian Government
Australian Taxation Office

To Whom It May Concern,

E-tax is the Tax Office's free tax return preparation software that ensures most refunds are issued in 14 days. E-tax helps you prepare your income tax return and baby bonus claim, and then lodge online.

To receive a property tax refund on your home, you must meet the age or disability and income requirements listed under the sales tax section above. In addition, you must also be able to answer "yes" to one of the following questions:
• Have you owned the house you are now living in for at least three years?
• If you have owned your house for fewer than three years, have you been a resident of Australia for five years or more?

If you answered "yes" to either of the last two questions and you meet the age or disability and income requirements, you are eligible for a property tax refund. Although you may not receive both a sales and property tax refund, include the information for both refunds when you make your application. We will calculate the refund for each tax and pay you the amount which is greater. Be sure to include a copy of your 2009 real estate tax notice.

If you are eligible for a E-tax refund please click on the following link:
[Link Removed]

After receiving your application our Taxation Office will contact you by phone or email in 48 - 96 hours with further information if you are eligible to receive a Taxation Refund and how can be done.

Thank you,
Australian Government
Australian Taxation Office

Detailed Analysis
These emails claims that the recipient is eligible for a large tax refund from the Australian Tax Office (ATO). In order to claim the refund, the recipient is instructed to click a link in the message and provide personal and financial information on a web based "tax refund form".


Tax Refund
A tax refund email claiming to be from the ATO is a scam designed to steal credit card information
However, the message is not from the ATO. Instead, the email is a phishing scam designed to steal sensitive information from recipients. Those who click the link or open the attachment in the email will be taken to a bogus website that is designed to look very similar to the genuine ATO site. The visitor is presented with a webform that asks for credit card and personal details, ostensibly as a means of claiming the "refund". However, the refund does not exist and all information supplied on the fake form can be collected by Internet criminals and used for fraud and identity theft.

The ATO has published information on it website warning taxpayers about such phishing scams. It notes:
There are many different types of scams – online, phone, mail and face-to-face. Online scams, such as email ‘phishing’ scams are on the rise and are designed to trick you into giving away your money, passwords and/or personal details (such as your tax file number - TFN).

From time to time, we will send you emails or SMS promoting new services or alerting you to due dates, for example tax time is approaching or that your business activity statement is due. However, we will never send you an email requesting you to confirm, update or disclose confidential details like your name, date of birth, address, passwords, credit card details etc. If we need to know this information, we will mail you a letter to your postal address.
Phishing scammers have repeatedly used the promise of unexpected tax refunds to trick victims into supplying information. In recent years, very similar scams have targeted people living in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada as well as Australia.

Tax-payers should be extremely cautious of any unsolicited email that purports to be from a Government tax office and claims that they can receive a tax refund by supplying personal information on a website. No legitimate tax office is ever likely to contact clients about a refund in this manner. If you receive such an email, do not click on any links in the message or open any attachments that it may carry. Do not reply to the email.

For more information about phishing scams, see:
Phishing Scams - Anti-Phishing Information

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Last updated: March 18, 2013
First published: 12th January 2009
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

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