19 Nov How to protect yourself against Tax Scammers
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is guiding taxpayers with some simple measures to help protect themselves from scammers as part of Stay Smart Online week. It is important for taxpayers to remember to stay attentive and cautious of emails, phone calls and SMS during tax time that claim to be from the ATO, even if they seem legitimate.
There are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself from scammers, including only giving out personal details to people you trust and keeping tabs on your tax affairs so you know what you should be expecting. Also, as a general rule, you should be cautious about personal information that you share, especially on social media.
The ATO has been working with a number of organisations including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissioner and some major retailers to warn people about buying gift cards to pay for alleged tax debts, which some scammers have been requesting as payment. The most common scams reported to the ATO are phone calls where a scammer demands payment for a fake tax debt, or emails requesting personal identifying information or a fee to release a refund. These scammers use a variety of techniques such as ‘spoofing’ telephone numbers and replicating the ATO branding in emails to try and legitimise the interaction.
Five simple ways to protect yourself from identity crime include:
1) Know what to protect: Personal information that is sought after by scammers include your full name, date of birth, current address, tax file number ,bank account and credit card details, drivers licence and passport details, and any of your passwords.
2) Keep their personal information safe and secure: If personal information is stolen it can be very difficult to get back. It’s best to store things like a tax file number or birth certificate somewhere safe and secure – for example, don’t carry it around in a wallet or handbag or saved on a phone.
3) Do not share too much information on social media: Scammers can use information published on social networking sites to steal identities. If you see friends or family sharing personal information online, remind them that they could be putting themselves at risk of targeted attacks. It’s also a good idea to make sure profiles are set to private, and to be cautious about which friend requests to accept.
4) Be suspicious of requests for personal information: If you receive a request for personal information, treat the request with caution. Scammers can be believable and will sometimes quote personal information to sound authentic, so consider the possibility that it may be a scam. To check if a call, email, SMS is actually from the ATO, you can call them on 1800 008 540 to confirm.
5) Know legitimate ways to make payments: Scammers may use intimidating tactics to get their victims into paying false tax debts with pre-paid gift cards or by sending money to non-ATO bank accounts. To check that a payment method is legitimate, the ATO have a list which can found on their website that outlines methods of accepted payment when dealing with them.
If you’re unsure about the validity of an ATO interaction you can call the scam hotline on 1800 008 540 or forward any suspicious emails to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au.