| 05.12,11. 12:10 AM |
Foreign students selling their tax file numbers to crime gangs
December 04, 2011
FOREIGN students are selling their tax file numbers to crime gangs in a multi-million-dollar tax swindle.
The ATO says the fraudsters are paying up to $500 for tax file numbers from vulnerable victims, which are then being used to lodge false tax returns and create new identities.
The Sunday Telegraph found numerous references to buying and selling tax file numbers on internet forums and Chinese social networking sites.
One post, on ozchinese.com, read: "Anyone willing to let me borrow their TFN, I'm willing to pay."
A student who had unwittingly provided their details to a prospective employer stated: "Recently there are increasing numbers of people advertising to buy people's TFNs, and I just remember I gave my TFN to a Chinese employer but then he never gave me any shift, now I'm worried."
The ATO stopped $17 million worth of dodgy returns last financial year.
In a bid to combat identity fraud, the tax office has asked 38 universities, including the University of NSW and Sydney University, to warn students they face five-years imprisonment.
It has also contacted 96 English language schools and emailed almost 200,000 students studying in Australia.
A member of the University of Sydney Student Representative Council said she had been approached by an international student who had been asked to give his tax details.
Council of International Students Australia president Arfa Noor said foreign students were an easy target.
"It is very easy to convince an international student to do something that an average Australian would know not to do," she said.
"We are educating a lot of communities to keep their TFNs safe," said ATO deputy commissioner compliance Michael Cranston.
"We provide education through the universities and also if the students are here on temporary visas to study, they get a lot of information from immigration letting them know it is serious and if you do get caught there are consequences. We have identified quite a lot of syndicates."
The number of ATO activities relating to tax file numbers being bought, sold or stolen have skyrocketed 400 per cent since 2008-09.
But Mr Cranston said the ATO is often able to stop fraudulent returns before refunds were sent out.
The Australian Federal Police's identity security strike team investigated a referral from the ATO concerning the fraudulent procurement of tax file numbers from students at a Perth University campus, charging the offender with identity crime offences.
The matter is before the courts.