Tax Time Scam

Tax Time Scam Warning

by Angus Jones

With tax time on the horizon, Norton, a consumer Cyber Safety brand of Gen™, is warning Australians to remain cautious over the coming months as various Tax Time scams begin to emerge.

The warning comes as new consumer data from Norton reveals that 14% of Australians say they have personally experienced cybercrime in the past 12 months, with the average amount lost to cybercrime over $850 ($863.79). Of those who have experienced cybercrime in the last 12 months, 35% had detected unauthorised access to an online banking or financial account.

Tax time can bring stress and confusion to individuals and businesses as they prepare to file their returns with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). It is the perfect environment for cybercriminals who seek to take advantage of the time and try to obtain sensitive information to cause financial harm to unsuspecting victims.

Mark Gorrie, APAC Managing Director for Norton says, “There are certain times each year that pique cybercriminals’ interest and tax time continues to be one of them. With the amount of personal and financial information that is being stored and shared at this time, coupled with the stress that comes with filing tax returns, it is the perfect storm for scammers to target Australians.”

“It can be easy to fall into the trap of a scammer offering to ease this burden. However, it is important to understand that  Cyber Safety practices should never be sacrificed in exchange for convenience.”

“AI is aiding cybercriminals in evolving and developing their devious tactics, it is more important than ever that Australians are continuing to educate themselves on the warning signs.”

Examples of prevalent Tax Time Scam to look out for:

  1. Tax-related identity theft. This scam occurs when cybercriminals access a victim’s account, impersonate them, and fraudulently lodge refunds from the ATO using your stolen personal information, including your tax file number (TFN). This can be dangerous, as in this instance, the cybercriminal who filed a return with your information may still have your data – leaving you vulnerable to other identity-related crimes.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Keep your tax file number safe. Shred any documents that contain personal information before you throw them away, and ensure that your online accounts containing sensitive information, like myGov, are protected with strong passwords and two factor authentication.
  • If you suspect your TFN and identity has been compromised, immediately report the incident to the ATO.
  • Consider using a robust security software, like Norton 360. This will help protect your personal devices and information, and act as a first line of defence against attempts by criminals to steal or compromise your personal information.   
  1. Be cautious of ATO impersonation scams. Cybercriminals will pose as ATO representatives to convince victims to provide their bank details, tax file number, or other personal information via SMS, email, or social media accounts.  Additionally, in January this year, the ATO issued a warning about scammers posing as ATO workers on Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and other popular social media platforms. These phony accounts prey on social media users who have made public comments addressing the ATO with a question or complaint. The scammer sends their victim a direct message, offering to assist in resolving the issue. After gaining trust, the scammer attempts to obtain personal information.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Look out for tell-tale signs of a scam. The ATO won’t use urgent threats, such as arrest, payment, or suspension of your TFN. If contacted via social media by a newly created unverified account with a small follower account, delete the message. The ATO only has official accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – legitimised with verification ticks and over 10 years of activity.
  • If you receive a suspected scam email or SMS, do not click on any links, provide any payments, account log in information, or other personal information. To help people navigate the online world safely with digital tools, Norton Genie is a free app that detects scams by reviewing suspicious texts, emails, and web and let’s you know if it is legit.
  • Occasionally, the ATO will contact you by phone, email, SMS, and post. If you are not sure about the validity of any communication, the best thing to do is to call the ATO directly. You can obtain a phone number from their official website, or a previous letter you have received, and validate the request.
  1. Dodgy tax preparers offering to complete your tax refund. Scammers capitalising on the desire for maximum tax refunds will promise substantial returns and a speedier process, which can appear to be an enticing offer in an otherwise confusing and stressful time. The fraudsters will ask for access to the myGov accounts of their victims and lodge tax returns through the ATO’s myTax web portal or take personal details and payment before disappearing.

How to avoid this scam:

  • If someone approaches you claiming to be a tax preparer, you can check that they are registered on the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) by visiting their website to verify the legitimacy of their claims.
  • Never share your myGov password with anyone. Sharing your information (such as your myGov password) with an unregistered practitioner puts your personal and financial affairs at risk.
  • Enable two factor authentication on myGov. You can use either the myGov Code Generator app or receive a code by SMS when logging in. This will further protect you from unauthorised access to your myGov account.

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