How To Avoid Tax Time Scams
With the arrival of tax time, finance personnel is not the only people hard at work. Scammers also make the most of what has proved to be a lucrative period for them in the past – the end of the Australian financial year.
Tax time provides fraudsters with the ideal opportunity to steal Australians’ hard-earned money and personal details, and so far they have proved to be quite professional in this regard, with close to$950,000 unwittingly paid to scammers last year. More Australians lost money to scammers in 2017 than in any other year and 65,000 scams were reported to the ATO in the last financial year.
Tax time is lucrative for scammers because most people are expecting correspondence from government agencies (particularly the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), ASIC (the Australian Securities and Investments Commission), MyGovandimportantly, your accountant.
This means that many people respond to any communication that looks like it comes from these sources without giving it a second thought. This can result in lost money or shared confidential information that could be used to open bank accounts, borrow money in their name, access private records, lodge false tax claims or claim for government benefits. They can even access your superannuation.
So how do you avoid scammers?
- Be suspicious of any official-looking correspondence. No matter how authentic the email or SMS appears, do not click on any links.
- Copy the links into your browser and check that they do actually take you to the relevant site.
- Never provide anyone with your usernames and passwords. Government agencies and financial institutions will not ask you for this information. If this information is being asked for, it is a scam and should be reported to the agency the scammer is purporting to represent.
- If in doubt, call the company or government agency to check the authenticity of any communication received.
Red flags to watch for:
- A strange email address. Click on the name to reveal the full email address. Emails from the ATO will have @ato.gov.au.
- Aggressive or urgent demands for money. Scammers rely on you to panic, be reactive and want you to move fast before you become suspicious. The ATO will not send random emails with urgent, aggressive or threating demands for immediate payment.
- Not using your full name in correspondence.
- Poor grammar and misspelling of words. English is often not the first language of criminals of this type and it may show in their communications with you.
- Requests for your username and password.
- A request for you to download a form. This can be a means of installing malicious software on your computer.
If in doubt, call the service provider or government agency directly. You can call ATO on 1800 008 540 from Monday to Friday from 8am-6pm. Of course, many authentic emails will hit your inbox, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Keep up to date with the latest scams on ATO’s scam alerts web page.
For financial advice, you can always trust, get in touch with Stones Sharp today.
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