Inside money, markets, and big tech

Bitcoin beats iTunes vouchers as preferred payment for Australian scammers

Those pesky tax scammers are back, and they want Bitcoin!

In what could be one of the strangest milestones in cryptocurrency history, Bitcoin BTC is now the preferred payment method of Australian tax scammers, surpassing iTunes vouchers for the first time.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has fielded reports of over 28,000 attempted scams since July. It estimated Australians have paid close to $1 million to the scammers in the past three months alone, reports local outlet ABC.

Tax scammers are notorious in Australia, known for preying upon migrants by demanding payments for fake government debts. They typically threaten victims with imprisonment and even deportation if they don’t give up their cash.

Traditionally, the scammers have demanded payment in the form of iTunes vouchers, but Australian authorities warn these groups are becoming more sophisticated.

Now, it’s more likely the tax scammers will demand funds be delivered through dodgy Bitcoin ATMs than any other means.

“While most taxpayers received a tax refund this year, around one million taxpayers will need to make a payment to the ATO,” reads a statement. “With the […] due date just around the corner, the ATO wants Australians to be on high alert for tax scams, especially the increasing trend of scammers demanding payment through Bitcoin ATMs.”

Last month, the scammers made headlines after convincing four Australian immigrants to part with more than $50,000 AUD ($35K USD), by convincing them to deposit money into a Bitcoin ATM at a nearby shopping mall, or else be arrested for nonexistent debts.

The ATO further warned scammers are harvesting the personal and financial information of Australians through related telephone phishing scams.

Authorities have recorded nearly 6,000 instances of taxpayers handing their sensitive data to ATO imposters since July.

Published November 14, 2018 — 10:02 UTC