The Australian Tax Office has warned the public to be aware of phone scams that demand payment of non-existent tax debts.

The warning came as an elderly Wyndham resident received a phone message about an “investigation into her tax evasion”.

She was told that if she did not settle the tax debt there would be “very severe consequences”.

The 78-year-old, who asked not to be named, said an accountant told her the call was a scam, but she feared others might fall for it.

“It was worrying to receive a phone call like that,” she said. “I was alright, but I worry about others who might not realise it’s a scam.”

Star Weekly tried several times to contact the phone number provided by the scammers, but there was no response.

ATO assistant commissioner Thomas Ryan said that while the tax office made thousands of calls to taxpayers every week, they would never contact anyone about a debt in a threatening manner, and he urged people to protect their personal details.

“We take your privacy seriously,” he said.

“We urge you to be alert to these types of scams and never send money or give your financial details to someone you don’t know and trust.

“Generally, the ATO would send an SMS or letter to remind you a payment was due. If we don’t receive a response from this we would then call you to discuss payment.”

Anyone who receives a call claiming to be from the ATO is encouraged to ask for the caller’s name and phone the ATO switchboard on 13 28 69.

Anyone who believes they may have fallen victim to a phone scam can report it to the ATO by phoning 13 28 61.