Indian migrant loses $5000 in ATO Phone Scam

An Indian national on a temporary visa has lost thousands to a group of scammers who threatened him to deport to his country of origin.

Gurwinder Singh

Sydney-based Gurwinder Singh lost nearly $5000 to a group of scammers. Source: Supplied

In yet another case of a phone scam, Sydney-based Gurwinder Singh lost nearly $5000 to a group of scammers who pretended to be ATO and Police officials.

Gurwinder Singh lives with his wife in Wentworthville suburb in Sydney's west. He is currently on a 457 visa.

Mr Singh told  that since he is on a temporary visa he was afraid to be deported back to India.

“It was all planned. I don’t know why they targeted me.

“The scammers contacted me over the phone. They had an Australian accent.
“One of the scammer told me that he is John Harris, an official with Australian Tax Office, and there are discrepancies in my tax return.

“He told me that I will be deported for making false claims with the tax office.

“When I hung up, there was another phone call from a person pretending to be a Police Officer.

“It was a panic situation. The phone number as shown by my True Caller App was of AFP Police Switchboard.  

“This person told me that he had an arrest warrant in my name and he is coming to my place to arrest me. But he will put these proceeding aside if I make an arrangement to pay the money as planned with the ATO official [Scammer].

"I was so shocked to hear this! I am on a valid visa and I was sure that I have made no mistakes in my tax claims."
“But I wasn’t thinking properly. My wife has recently arrived from Punjab, India and I didn’t want to have any dramas at my residence for this amount.

“I talked to my cousin who was a little suspicious about the phone call.  But after I insisted, he helped me arrange $4850, which was the amount scammer asked me over the phone. 

The ATO scammer sent Mr Singh an email that had a money transfer barcode. 
Scam Barcode
Source: Supplied

Mr Singh told SBS that as agreed with the scammer he went to Waterloo near the city and transferred money by scanning the email bar code.
"In return, I received a Bitcoin message. My cousin was sure that it is a fraud, but I was too stressed to be listening!"

Bitcoins scam
Source: Supplied

“Then I had a phone call from the second scammer who was pretending to be a Police Officer. Now he demanded an additional amount of $5000 or to face dire consequences.   

“By this time I was too tired of listening to these phone calls. I told him to better arrest me as I didn’t have the sum of $5000.

“In the meantime, while I was in Waterloo, my cousin went to Police station in Wentworthville. He helped me connect to the Police through a conference call. The ‘real’ Police officer told me that I was scammed.

“He told the scammer that Police will catch him sooner or later....The scammer listened to the police officer and said, “oh really” and then he hung up.

“There is nothing that I can do to get my money back. I contacted the company that I used for money transfer. But they advised that they cannot trace payments made through barcodes.

"I will urge everyone to be careful and cautious," said Mr Singh.

The ATO is concerned about online and email scammers and urges everyone to protect themselves from falling victims to tax scams.

Jagjit Singh who is a Community Relations Officer with ATO told that it’s important to remember that the ATO will never:

  • Threaten you with immediate arrest
  • Ask you to pay money to receive a refund or payment from us
  • Ask you to pay with iTunes cards or any other pre-paid card
  • Ask you to pay money into a personal bank account.
The ATO will never ask you to provide personal information, like your Tax file number or credit card number, via email or SMS.

Never click on a link or open attachments if you are unsure who sent it. If it is claiming to be from the ATO, immediately forward the email to  and delete it from your email account. If unsure, finish the call without providing any information. Then call 1800 008 540 to check if it was the ATO.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have also urged visa holders and Australian citizens to hang up on fraudulent phone calls from scammers.

ACCC website offers proactive advice for people who have been the victim of a scam 

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4 min read
Published 1 December 2017 at 11:19am
By Preetinder Grewal