Professional body warns on COVID scams

A key professional body has warned the industry to be on their guard for scammers providing misleading advice to their clients around COVID stimulus benefits.

In a statement released on Thursday, the TPB said it had identified a growing number of complaints about fraudsters targeting members’ clients with advice on a ‘no benefit, no fee’ basis around accessing COVID stimulus benefits.

“The arrangements are often promoted through social media channels, claim to offer advice and support along with unnecessary services in a subscription or locked-in contract,” the TPB said.

“The organisations involved may claim that the advice being provided is ‘assured’ by a registered tax agent. That advice may be incorrect and breach the Tax Agent Services Act (TASA).”

The TPB said the scams often involved consumers having to turn over personal information such as their myGovID credentials.

“We are investigating organisations operating in this way to establish how, and which, services are being provided and whether they are in contravention of the law,” TPB chair Ian Klug said.

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“We are concerned about protecting the consumers of taxation services as we know the accuracy of the advice given by unregistered agents is not reliable and there is no safe way to ‘assure’ advice by an unregistered tax adviser simply by involving a registered agent on the fringe of the business. 

“Incorrect advice may prevent the full amount of the benefit from reaching its intended recipients. Also, incorrectly received benefits may have to be repaid and recipients may be liable for penalties and interest.”

The professional body said it would “prioritise” investigations into the organisations involved.

“If you are not a registered practitioner and your business is engaged in providing advice or services related to any of the COVID-19 stimulus benefits such as JobKeeper, Cash Boost or early release of super, you are in breach of the TASA and may be liable for a civil penalty imposed by the Federal Court,” Mr Klug said.

The comments come following the ATO's referral of a fraud on the early super release system to the Australian Federal Police.

The scam had seen third parties access the myGov system and make false early release claims on behalf of up to 150 fund members, who had $10,000 stolen from each of their super accounts.

Professional body warns on COVID scams
COVID scams
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