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Australia Warns of Fake 'Tax Collectors' Demanding Bitcoin

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) issued a warning about would-be scammers trying to con people out of their cryptocurrency.

Since late last year, scammers have been calling Australians and impersonating the tax office, claiming that the victims owed funds in unpaid taxes, and asking them to pay in bitcoin. So far, more than 50,000 Australian dollars (about $39,400 in U.S. dollars) have been sent to the scammers, according to a press release from the office.

The ATO warned that residents should be cautious about paying “direct deposits into third-party bank accounts, demanding payment via iTunes cards or with a pre-paid Visa gift cards” as well as cryptocurrencies.

According to the ATO’s website, approved payment methods include credit and debit cards, bank transfers or online bill payment system BPAY. Crypto is not on the list.

ATO assistant commissioner Kath Anderson said it was “inevitable that scammers would target cryptocurrency,” noting its rise to prominence last year. She continued:

“Cryptocurrency operates in a virtual world, and once the scammers receive payment, it’s virtually impossible to get it back.”

Residents who are unsure about a purported tax call can contact the ATO, but any calls threatening police or legal action would not be from the ATO, according to the release.

Stepping back, there have been a number of similar scams around the world in the last several months. Most recently, Canadian police warned that people pretending to be from the Canada Revenue Agency were threatening to arrest victims with alleged unpaid taxes. That scam netted some 340,000 Canadian dollars ($267,000), as previously reported.

Other tax-related scams include a recent attempt to trick U.S. residents into investing retirement funds into “IRS-approved” cryptocurrencies. The Commodity Futures Trade Commission noted at the time that the Internal Revenue Service does not approve or review investments for retirement accounts.

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