Keep your identity safe from these 3 tax time scams

Everything is under siege in this age of cybercrime, so there is no more important time than tax time to protect your identity. That means everything from your Tax File Number (TFN), to your myGov account, to your Australian Business Number (ABN) should be kept safe.

Your TFN is most at risk.

The TFN may only be used in a limited number of places, however the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OIAC) reports that, of all the notifiable data breaches that were reported in the last six months of 2019, 15 per cent, or 83 notifications, were TFN breaches.

If you think someone has misused or stolen any of the above information, then you should contact the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) immediately. Contact them directly on 1800 467 033, rather than responding to a call from someone from the tax office, as it is unlikely anyone from the ATO would have called you about privacy matters.

Rule one for keeping yourself safe is don’t give your tax file number to anybody over the phone. The only people who should have your TFN are your tax agent, current employer or bank, or organisations with a legitimate need for it, such as the Tax Office.

Rule two is destroy or delete your TFN from documents before throwing them away.

Rule three is don't share your online passwords with others and never reply to emails with your TFN, password or other sensitive information.

Those are rules to abide by all year around. During tax time, however, the fourth rule is beware of tax scams, especially those with your private details in the crosshairs.

3 scams to beware of

This is not only the age of cybercrime, but also the age of working from home, which means security is partly compromised.

Those working from home are therefore more vulnerable to scam, especially online or telescams than ever before.

Unfortunately, compromised home security and unprotected networks, give cybercriminals the opportunity to steal your identity.

The Australian Institute of Criminology estimates the direct annual cost of identity crime is at least $2.1 billion dollars in Australia alone. This is even more vulnerable during tax time, with criminals attempting tax refund fraud – that is their trying to steal your hard-earned refund.

Nick FitzGerald, senior research fellow at antivirus and internet security firm ESET, said, “Identity theft happens silently and can happen to anyone. Identify theft is costly and stressful. It can tend to accelerate during tax time as cybercriminals look to a number of tax-related scams to steal people’s identities.”

There are three ways identified by ESET that cybercriminals can steal personal information during tax season:

1. Who can it be now?

We mentioned it above briefly, but cybercriminals are known to impersonate the ATO through phone calls, emails, and text messages.

It’s a well-known scam, but still some people get caught out by myriad phone scams conducted by unscrupulous cybercriminals asking you for your personal identification and financial information.

The idea is to trick you into thinking you are providing your information to the ATO.

Scams can be highly elaborate, with fake, official looking webpages that direct people to fill in private information.

This page then harvests that information and uses it to access people’s bank accounts or other systems. You may also be directed to install malware or remote access software on your computer giving the criminals access to the personal information on your computer.

Finally, one tele scam going around threatens you with arrest if you don’t pay your bill. It may have you wondering if you have an outstanding tax debt, but ignore the call or text, it’s a scam.

2. The corona scam

As we all know by now, this isn’t anything about beer. Maybe your pint of Corona was swapped out for Geelong Bitter. That would be tragic. However, even more tragic would be getting tricked by an ATO impersonator.

COVID-19 scams are on the rise.

JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments and applications have given rise to COIVID-19-related scams, again in the form of text messages and emails asking businesses and individuals to confirm personal details to get JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments.

ATO lookalike sites are also rife and people are advised not to click on any link to an ATO site, go directly to the ATO site, to cross check any information or seek guidance.

3. Invoice shenanigans

If you own a businesses and are now reconciling your financials by pay all your invoices and chasing payments before 30 June, you are also under siege.

Fake, yet legitimate looking invoices, are doing the rounds as are requests to verify information with bogus details and requests to verify personal information.

It’s important to independently check each outgoing and incoming invoice.

Nick FitzGerald said, “Identity theft can mean thousands of dollars out of pocket for people and businesses alike during tax time. This is why it is important that people understand the dangers of identity theft and report scams to the relevant authorities. Being diligent and reporting scams can help combat these threats and raise the alarm for other potential victims, helping everyone to protect themselves.”

This update is not financial advice. This article is general news and information.

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