How to Safeguard Your Finances During Tax Season (and not only)?
With tax time just around the corner, scammers are stepping up their game by impersonating the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) with remarkable precision. It’s essential to be vigilant and familiarise yourself with the tell-tale signs of tax scam methods to avoid significant financial losses.
First and foremost, it’s crucial to remember some general rules when receiving communication from the ATO. If you receive an email, SMS, or phone call purporting to be from the ATO, take a moment to pause and breathe. If the message includes a link or an attachment, it is undoubtedly a tax scam. Report it immediately and refrain from engaging with the sender.
It’s important to bear in mind that the real ATO will never send you links to click on. If the legitimate ATO contacts you, they will always direct you to contact them directly through their official sites, such as https://www.ato.gov.au or https://my.gov.au/, to log into your account securely. If you’re ever unsure about the authenticity of a communication or need clarification, don’t hesitate to call the ATO directly at 1800 008 540.
Now, let’s explore some of the top scams to be aware of and how you can avoid falling victim to them. You can also explore the ATO’s guidelines on verifying scams.
Social Media Impersonation Accounts
Scammers have infiltrated almost every social media platform, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, by impersonating the ATO and its employees. These fraudulent pages aim to trick you into sharing personal information such as email addresses, phone numbers, and bank account details. Remember that the genuine ATO has official presences on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, all of which bear the blue tick of authentication. Be wary of accounts without authentication and low follower counts, as the real ATO will never request personal information through social media.
Tax Refund SMS Scams
This scam has gained popularity and remains a significant concern in 2023. Scammers entice you to click on a link, leading you to a fake website that appears genuine. The goal is to collect your personal information. Always be cautious of SMS messages containing links. The authentic ATO will never send you an SMS with a link in it.
Tax Lodgement Email Scam
Scammers send deceptive emails containing false information about your tax return lodgement date, often including a fake receipt number. These manipulative emails discourage you from calling them directly and urge you to open an attachment instead. Clicking on the attachment will redirect you to a phony Microsoft sign-in screen. By entering your login details and password, cybercriminals gain access to your personal device, potentially compromising your sensitive information. Remember that the real ATO will never send you an email with a link or attachment.
Fake TFN/ABN Applications
Scammers advertise on social media platforms, promising assistance in obtaining a Tax File Number or Australian Business Number (ABN) for a fee. These advertisements are often found on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. However, remember that applying for a TFN or ABN is free, and the real ATO will never advertise such services on social media. Be cautious and avoid sharing personal information on fraudulent websites.
Fake Tax Debt
Scammers may contact you via phone or text, pretending to be from the ATO, and claim that you have a tax debt. They will use threatening language, stating that failure to pay immediately will result in arrest. These scammers will be persistent and demand payment through prepaid gift cards, credit cards, or even cryptocurrency. It’s important to note that the authentic ATO will never call you to demand payment, threaten arrest, or use pre-recorded messages for such purposes. If you receive such a call, hang up immediately.
Asking You to Update Your myGov Details
This recurring scam involves scammers impersonating myGov and sending emails informing individuals that they need to update their details. These emails often include a link, directing you to a fake myGov website where you are asked to sign in with your myGov credentials. Remember that the real ATO and myGov will never send you an email or SMS with a link requesting you to update your information.
Sending Alerts Claiming You Have a Suspended TFN
In recent years, the ATO has received reports of automated calls where a voice message claims that your Tax File Number (TFN) has been suspended and legal action has been taken against you. Scammers use this tactic to create fear and anxiety. They may ask for personal details, such as the last four digits of your TFN, address, date of birth, name of your bank account, and approximate account balance. It’s important to know that the ATO will never send unsolicited pre-recorded messages to your phone or threaten immediate arrest. If you receive such a call, hang up immediately.
By familiarising yourself with these common scams and staying alert, you can protect yourself from falling victim to ATO impersonators. Remember the general rules for communication from the ATO, such as not clicking on links or opening attachments. If you have any doubts or need clarification, contact the ATO directly using their official contact details. Stay informed, be cautious, and safeguard your financial well-being during tax season.
If you are in doubts, you can always call your accountant to confirm if it is ATO
Please note that scammers are constantly evolving their tactics, so it’s essential to stay updated on the latest scams and report any suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities. Your diligence and awareness are crucial in combating these fraudulent schemes and protecting yourself from financial harm.