Assistant commissioner Kath Anderson said, “We have already seen a five-fold increase in scams from January to May this year and typically expect further increases during the tax period. Of the 17,026 scams reported so far, 113 Australians handed over $1.5 million to fraudsters with about 500 providing some form of personal information, including tax file numbers.”
“One victim lost $900,000 to scammers over the course of several months, even borrowing money from family and friends. A large number of people lodging their tax returns means scammers are particularly active, so it’s important to keep an eye out for anything that looks suspicious and protect your private information,” she added.
iTWire sought comment from Nick FitzGerald, senior research fellow at ESET. He warns, “Every year we see a spike in scammers phishing for information from taxpayers via fake emails, text messages, and phone calls, impersonating employees from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) requesting details, to help them steal your hard-earned cash. It’s crucial for individuals to stay extra vigilant now by paying attention to the warning signs.”
- Seek the right advice: Tips on your tax return should always come from a tax professional or a trusted source. Unsolicited online advice should never be trusted and sensitive information should not be shared.
- Use a safe platform: If you’re using a mobile application to file your tax return, make sure it’s legitimate and not a fake app. Also, ensure that you’re connected to a trusted Wi-Fi network and that you have up-to-date mobile Internet security. In addition, as we’ve learned from the WannaCryptor attacks, do not click on suspicious attachments or links that have come from an unknown account.
- Use secure payment services: To avoid the risk of passing them on to cyber criminals, do not enter your credit card details on unfamiliar or suspicious sites. Fake sites can be made to look legitimate, so It’s always best to type in a URL yourself or use a bookmark saved from a previous, legitimate visit, always checking that there’s a secure connection between you and the site – look for ‘https’ at the start of the address bar.
- Install security software: Install a security solution across all of your devices, one with built in technologies designed to prevent financial fraud would be particularly advantageous.
Anderson affirms this advice. “Be aware of what you share, don’t reply to any SMS or email and provide personal financial information, look at everything as if it was a scam, keep your computer safe, change passwords regularly, and help us by reporting scams on 188 008 540.”