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How to Spot an ATO Email Hoax

March 11, 2012 by Ben Collins in Tech

It never ceases to amaze me how gullible some people can be when it comes to email hoaxes, and so I’m going to set about publishing a few and pointing out the anomalies that should clearly identify them as hoaxes. Here is one that apparently cam from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

Australian Taxation Office


Dear Taxpayer,
After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of 254.33 AUD

Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 69 days in order to process it.

To access your tax refund, please follow the steps below:

.....- download the Tax Refund Form attached to this email
.....- open it in a browser
.....- follow the instructions on your screen

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

Australian Government

Now, if you were to open the said attachment, the form would ask you for your credit card details which is what the phishing is about. Why anyone would actually open the attachment baffles me as there are so many clues identifying this email as a hoax.

I am going to list five reasons why the above email is clearly not who it claims to be from:


  • The ATO will never email you asking for information
  • There is no annual calculations of fiscal activity
  • There is no such thing as a tax refund form, it is called a tax return.
  • The ATO will not usually describe your tax refund as 254.22 AUD
  • The ATO processing time is never 6-9 days, it is either 14 days or 28 days.
  • The ATO will never sign off as Australian Government


There are plenty more (feel free to comment on them) but i think we all need to invigorate ourselves with a healthy degree of skepticism when it comes to people or organisations contacting us and asking us for things.





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