Tax Refund Phishing Scam
Home ScamsPhishing Scams ATO ‘Final Estimated Refund’ Phishing Scam

ATO ‘Final Estimated Refund’ Phishing Scam

by Brett M. Christensen

Outline

Message purporting to be from the Australian Taxation Office claims that the recipient can claim a tax refund of $585.15 by following a link and filling in a claim form.

Brief Analysis

The message is not from the ATO. It is a phishing scam designed to trick recipients into divulging personal and financial information to criminals. It is just the latest incarnation in a series of ‘tax refund’ scams that have targeted taxpayers in several countries for a number of years. If you receive one of these fake tax refund emails, do not click any links or open any attachments that it contains.

Example

Dear [Email address removed]

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity, we are glad to inform you that your final estimated refund is $585.15 AUD. Your Tax File Number is:

To access the form for your tax refund, please visit the link bellow:
(Link removed)

How long until my return will be processed? We will generally process it within 12 after completing the form. In some cases such as peak periods the processing time could take longer. If your refund appears to be delayed, you can make a formal enquiry.

Kindly complete the tax refund form in order to start the refund process.

Warm Regards,
Australian Taxation Office

ATO Final Estimated Refund Phishing Scam

 

Detailed Analysis

According to this seemingly official tax notification message, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has completed annual calculations of the recipient’s fiscal activity and come up with a ‘final estimated refund’ of $585.15. A link in the email opens a webpage that supposedly hosts a form that allows the recipient to claim the unexpected refund.

However, the email is not from the ATO and the supposed tax refund is imaginary. The message is a typical tax refund phishing scam designed to trick recipients into giving sensitive personal and financial information to cybercriminals. In an effort to appear legitimate, the email includes official ATO logos and formatting. It also users the recipient’s email address in an attempt to personalize the greeting and the link to the scam website.
These factors may cause less Internet-savvy users to believe the claims in the message and click the ‘refund form’ link as instructed. Those who do click will be presented with a form that asks for personal information such as their address details, tax file number, driver’s licence number and other details that are supposedly required to prove their identity and right to claim the refund. The bogus form will also ask for credit card and other financial data, ostensibly to allow the refund to be processed.

Alas, all of this data will be collected by the criminals operating the scam and used for credit card fraud and identity theft. In fact, this version is just one incarnation in a series of fake ATO tax refund messages that have targeted Australian taxpayers for several years.

The ATO website includes information about identifying and reporting such scams.

Wherever you live in the world, watch out for tax refund scam emails like the one discussed above. Very similar scams have targeted taxpayers in the US, UK, South Africa and India. If you receive such an email, do not click any links or open any attachments that it contains.

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer