A fraudulent letter claiming to be from the ATO and circulating in the industry is offering non-resident landlords the opportunity to claim tax exemption on rental income.
CEO of the Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) Tim McKibbin reported the fraudulent email to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) earlier this week.
NSW Fair Trading minister Stuart Ayres said the email was designed to appear as if it was an official ATO document.
“The scam email advises agencies managing landlords to forward forms to them to complete and return to the scammers.
“The forms require detailed personal information as well as photocopies of passports and mortgage account numbers. The covering letter in the scam email is badly written, with numerous errors of grammar and spelling,” Mr Ayres said.
According to Mr Ayres, the scam aims to harvest details of foreign investors from property managers and agents.
“The scammers may then seek to assume the identities of non-residents and sell their properties without the real owners’ knowledge,” he said.
Mr Ayres said Fair Trading had issued a warning about the same scam in July last year after it was reported by a real estate agent in Lennox Head in northern NSW, as well as a similar scam in the UK.
“The ATO confirmed the scam to Fair Trading and that identical fake Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) letters had been sent to real estate agents in the United Kingdom since at least March 2012,” he said.
The HMRC and ATO signature on the scam letters is identical and in some places in the ATO letter, the scammers have failed to replace the references to HMRC.
ATO chief technology officer Todd Heather said the ATO‘s brand was often employed in scams due to the community's willingness to comply with requests from the ATO.
“Scammers are relying on more sophisticated methods to trick people into handing over their financial or personal contact details,” he said.
“This scam, as with many others reported to the ATO, asks people for their personal details so they can likely commit identity theft and other types of fraud.”
In 2013, the ATO received 49,645 reports from the public about ATO-branded scams.