AUSTRALIANS have been scammed $1.5 million this year by fraudsters posing as tax officials demanding personal information and cash.

Scammers make contact via fake emails, text messages and phone calls, impersonating employees from the Australian Taxation Office requesting the details to steal hard earned cash.

“We have already seen a fivefold increase in scams from January to May this year and typically expect further increases during the tax time period,” tax office assistant commissioner Kath Anderson said.

She said 48,084 scams were reported to the Australian Taxation Office between July and October last year, with one unlucky person losing $900,000 to a scammer.

“Already this year, the Australian Taxation Office has registered over 17,067 scam reports. Of these, 113 Australians handed over $1.5 million to fraudsters with about 2,500 providing some form of personal information, including tax file numbers,” Ms Anderson said.

She said fraudsters often find genuine Australian Taxation Office phone numbers from the group’s website and project these numbers in their caller identification in an attempt to legitimise calls. Ms Anderson said the Australian Taxation Office always calls from a private number, meaning all of these calls are scams.

“People should be wary of emails, phone calls and SMS during tax time that claim to be from the Australian Taxation Office, even if it seems legitimate. If you’re ever unsure about whether a call, text message or email is genuine, call us,” she said.

To avoid falling victim to a scam, the Australian Taxation Office says you should only share your personal information with people you trust, change the passwords on your computer and mobile phone regularly, don’t reply to text messages or emails with your personal or financial information, and if someone asks for your bank account or personal details be cautious.

“The large number of people lodging their tax returns means scammers are particularly active, so it’s important to keep an eye out for anything that looks suspicious and protect your private information,” Ms Anderson said.