It seems as though every year as people gear up for tax time, there’s a new type of fraud or cyber attack that crops up. Most people want to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with government authorities like the Australian Tax Office (ATO), and scammers take advantage of that.
Unfortunately, this year is no exception. Scam emails, phone calls and other messages have already targeted at Australian taxpayers. Messages from random email addresses are a fairly clear tip off that something’s not quite right. But as scams become increasingly more sophisticated it pays to be alert.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reports that in 2016, Aussies lost nearly $84 million across all scam types. Over 155,000 incidents were reported to the authorities.i
Ways to protect yourself against fraud:
1. Know how government agencies do business
One simple thing to be aware of is that the ATO will never contact you asking for personal details or credit card information. You will never be emailed a request for payment. Instead, you’ll usually get an official letter sent to your registered postal address, or a notification asking you to log in to your secure myGov account to view a message. This means you can be relatively sure that any text or email you receive purporting to be from the ATO is false. If in doubt, call the ATO’s official numbers and ask if they’ve sent you anything recently.ii The same principle generally applies to other government agencies and regulators.
2. Be wary of random, unsolicited contact
If you receive a message purporting to be from an organisation you deal with – the ATO, your superannuation fund, a payment processor or bank – think about the way you normally communicate with that organisation. For example, if you usually speak to your payroll company quarterly and usually via a letter and phone call, be wary of a random email or text message, especially if it asks for personal details. Be even warier if you get an unsolicited email or phone call from an organisation you’ve never dealt with asking for personal details, a payment, or access to your computer.
3. Stay up to date with the latest trends
Thanks to technology, criminal organisations can change tactics and set up a new ‘campaign’ in just days. Make sure you’re up to date with the latest tactics so you know what to look out for where possible. It’s a good idea to sign up for the ATO’s Scamwatch Radar service.
Follow these few simple steps and trust your instincts if an email or phone call seems suspect and you’ll avoid becoming ‘just another scam statistic’ at the end of the financial year.
ii Find the correct number for your enquiry at https://www.ato.gov.au/about-ato/about-us/contact-us/phone-us/