TENS of thousands of reports have been made to authorities about scam phone calls where Australians are tricked into handing over their money to avoid an arrest warrant for unpaid tax debts.

There's one major problem with the claim: the Australian Tax Office can't and won't threaten anyone with arrest. But the calls keep coming and naïve Australians keep handing over their money.

Here's what happened when one reporter decided to find out more:

'THEY said they were from the Australian Taxation Office and that there were warrants out for my friend's arrest due to miscalculations on her tax return. She had to pay thousands of dollars in full. Today.

Fortunately my mate's street smarts kicked in and realised it was a scam. She hung up.

She also posted the '03' number on her socials and told her followers that it is indeed a scam and to report it to the ATO.

I, ever so curious, called the number. (Note: The ATO advises don't call the scammers back)

"Hello Australian Taxation Office…" said the accented voice on the other side of the line.

I responded, claiming I had a missed call from this number.

"Can you tell me your name and postcode please?" the operator asked.

I gave it to him. False ones of course.

"Alright, hold up, let me look up your file," he said.

I couldn't help but think that for a scam, this seemed pretty legitimate.

"I can see a case of tax fraud is under your name ma'am."

"Really?" I said in feigned astonishment. This fraudster was good - pulling up a file from a fake identity I gave him.

Buying into my surprise the operator continued to give me a detailed approach to their investigation that looked into not one year of tax returns but five.

"Yes ma'am between 2012 to 2017 shows miscalculations on your refund and that overall you have an outstanding balance of $2800," he told me.

Knowing full well I've been using certified tax accountants - with some even giving me a surprised look when I declare every cent I earn - I was not concerned.

I knew it was near impossible for me to defraud the government of thousands of dollars - as well as the fact that my conservative ethnic parents had drilled honesty into my bones.

However, for some Australians who are not so vigilant, they might be a little more gullible to this ruse.

Jim Hobill, in his 80s, sensed he had received a scam phone call from someone claiming to be from the ATO so he also called them directly to confirm and he was right. Picture: Mike Dugdale
Jim Hobill, in his 80s, sensed he had received a scam phone call from someone claiming to be from the ATO so he also called them directly to confirm and he was right. Picture: Mike Dugdale

"Everything under your name will be suspended," the operator continued

And he meant everything: debit card, credit cards, driver's license, bank account, the works.

"You have two options to resolve this either outside the courthouse and you pay the full $2800 or you can fight the Australian Tax Office inside the courthouse," he said.

"This means you could face more fees and have to hire a criminal attorney."

The operator made it clear I had to decide what to do today as it was my last day to pay.

Yeah right, I thought, but I asked instead if I could pay it off in partial payments.

"Let me transfer your call to a senior accountant," he said.

Then silence.

After three minutes I hung up and called again.

But from a landline.

A couple of rings and an engaged tone.

So I tried again.

"Who is this and why are you calling?!" said a harsh accented female voice.

"Oh umm so sorry," came my surprised demure reply.

"I thought this was the Australian Tax Office number and I was just returning the call," I explained further.

"No it is not the Australian Tax Office, don't call again!" she yelled down the phone and hung up.

So I called again. From my mobile this time.

"Hello Australian Taxation Office…" the same phone operator said from the first time round.

"Hi, yes, I called before and our call dropped out when you transferred me to the senior accountant."

"Ok can you give me your name and postcode please," the operator said.

So I gave him new false details.

"Yes, your file says you have an outstanding amount of money that you owe to us due to miscalculations on your tax return."

"I know I was on the phone to you before and you tried to pass me on to your supervisor but the call dropped out," I said.

"One moment please as I transfer you."

Silence again.

This time I almost hung up.

"Hi, you're speaking with Destiny Wilson from the Australian Taxation Office," said the accented fast talking female voice.

Which I realised was the angry female voice from my previous landline call.

Knowing about "my" tax file situation, she launched into a similar spiel about a "deficiency" in my income tax - but I now owe $2850.

So the price had gone up.

"How are you willing proceed, ma'am? Do you have it with you cash?"

"Yes I have the cash," I lied (sorry mum).

"Can you withdraw it from my bank account?" I offered.

"No ma'am we cannot do that because of your tax deficiency, and your bank account being blacklisted."

Bull. They were getting desperate.

"Can you get to a post office or a Kmart?" she asked.

Confused about the question I agreed I could get to a Kmart but I asked why and she didn't like it.

"Ma'am there are protocols and you need to follow the protocols and go to Kmart and a Taxation Officer will meet you there."

"But what protocols?" I asked one last time.

This time she hung up.

For good it seems, because I tried to call back with no luck.

Don't be fooled this Christmas by scammers, use your head and never give your personal banking details over the phone.

For more information on the latest ATO impersonation scams, visit www.ato.gov.au

Advice from the ATO:

While these scam calls may appear to be from the ATO with a spoofed caller ID, it is important to remember that a legitimate caller from the ATO will never:

- threaten you with arrest

- demand immediate payment, particularly through unusual means such as bitcoin, pre-paid credit cards or gift cards

- refuse to allow you to speak with a trusted advisor or your regular tax agent

- or present a phone number on caller ID

Never call a scammer back on the number they provide. If in doubt, independently locate a contact number for the organisation referenced in the call or email.

If you are in any doubt about an ATO call hang up and phone the ATO on 1800 008 540 to check if the call was legitimate or report a scam.