'Let's go to Europe!': ATO refunds people who have not lodged tax returns

Frans and Nicky could not believe their luck when $10,400 lobbed into their bank account, courtesy of the Australian Taxation Office.

"I said, 'let's go to Europe!'" Frans said.

But he knew the money wasn't theirs.

The couple had not lodged a tax return, and they were certainly not expecting a refund of that size.

The same day, Nicky received a phone call from a man with a thick accent, who claimed to be from the ATO and demanded they hand the money back.

"He had a Russian accent ... a strong accent, and he said 'It's Jacob Nobipski' and he is from the ATO in Sydney," Frans said.

"[He said] 'We've made a mistake – we've put money into your account that's not yours, it needs to be refunded to the ATO'.

"He also quoted the actual figure, so he knew exactly what was deposited into our account, it wasn't pot luck."

Australian Tax Office is investigating the false tax returns. Photo: Michel O'Sullivan

Australian Tax Office is investigating the false tax returns. Photo: Michel O'Sullivan

Nicky, who works as a secretary, was rightly cautious and questioned the man, who abruptly ended the call.

The Victorian couple is not alone. It is now apparent at least dozens of Australians have been caught up in a new tax fraud, which tricks the tax office into refunding thousands of dollars to unwitting victims.

The scammers lodge false tax returns with the ATO, using victims' personal details that were likely stolen during a phishing scam last month.

The ATO is working with at least two tax agents, whose clients say they have received an unexpected refund.

But the ATO has refused to confirm exactly how many people have fallen victim to the scam.

Frans reported the scam to their bank, police, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the ATO.

The couple had to hand the money back, and the ATO eventually provided them with the correct account details to do so.

Worried about other people getting caught up in the scam, Frans called radio station 3AW on Monday.

Last week, Gaye Mitchell, said $16,000 landed in her account after a fraudster lodged a tax return in her name.

Ms Mitchell said the ATO told her it was "still unsure how it occurred".

"[They] did confirm that the scammers had created myGov​ accounts to process the returns," she said. "Money has now been transferred back to them with no real apologies and no real answers how it occurred or if it could occur again. It's sad."

A myGov spokesman said its systems had not been compromised.

Phishing scams are the most common variety reported to Scamwatch. Australians aged over 65 are more vulnerable to these type of scams.

Anyone who receives an unexpected refund is urged to call their tax agent, or the ATO on 1800 467 033.