Sydney, June 19: It’s almost tax time here in Australia and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has released some helpful tips to stop taxpayers from falling prey to scammers.
In the last 12 months, the ATO has identified and taken action against 595 websites impersonating their online services.
These fake sites are designed to steal passwords, personal information and identity documents, such as passports and driver’s licences.
“Right now, we’re seeing a lot of SMS and email scams leading to fake myGov sign-in pages – we’ve had more than 360 of these scams reported since this April,” Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh said.
“However, we see many different types of tax and super scams happening year-round, not just in the lead up to tax time.”
Scammers are always looking for new ways to convince unsuspecting taxpayers into divulging personal information, such as bank details, usernames and passwords.
“This year, the ATO has taken out the guesswork and busted some scam myths to help people stay protected,” Loh added.
Myth #1: Only Older People Fall For Scams
In the last three years, younger Australians have fallen victim to the most tax scams. Last year, people aged 25 to 34 reported the most amount of money lost to tax scams, closely followed by those aged 18 to 24. In contrast, those aged 55 and above were among those who reported the least financial losses to us.
“We want Gen Z and Millennials to know they need to watch out too, as they are just as susceptible to falling for scams, especially those that involve fake tax debts or threats about alleged fraud,” Loh said.
“If you get a phone call saying it’s from the ATO and it doesn’t sound right, hang up.
“Check in with someone you trust, like a friend or family member. Even better go to the ATO’s website where we have a listing of all the current ATO scams or call us on our dedicated scam hotline.”
Myth #2: Scams Are Easy To Spot. You’d Be A Fool To Fall For One!
“Email and SMS scams are not always full of typos, bad grammar, and promises of riches from foreign royalty.
“We are seeing many more sophisticated scam messages using official language and fraudulent websites that mimic online services.
“We’ve seen some very convincing email and SMS scams that would trick even the most cautious people,” Loh said.
The ATO does send emails and SMS to clients to share general information or reminders, or to ask people to check their myGov inbox or get in touch with us.
However, here are some tell-tale signs to look out for if an email or SMS says it’s from the ATO. The ATO will never:
■ send an unsolicited message requesting personal information via a return email or SMS,
■ send an email or SMS with a link to log in to our online services,
■ ask you to pay a fee in order to receive a refund.
The ATO recently issued a scam alert for an ATO impersonation scam that has been circulating.
Myth #3 – Scams Only Happen During Tax Time
“While you may only focus on your tax when it’s time to lodge, scammers are constantly looking for ways to steal your personal details and financial information,” Loh said.
“We see different types of tax and super scams happening year-round.”
“It’s important to always stay vigilant to potential scams and to keep your personal and financial details safe.”
Some common scams that we see year-round involve scammers:
■ phoning people about a fake tax debt, and threatening that they’ll be arrested if they don’t pay it straight away
■ sending texts to people saying that they’re suspected of being involved in cryptocurrency tax evasion. If you receive this text, don’t click on the link.
■ sending emails impersonating the ATO and asking for people to update their financial information so their tax refund can be processed.
■ Protect personal information like it’s your credit card or tax file number.
■ Never share your usernames or passwords with anyone, not even your registered tax agent.
■ Be careful about clicking on links, even if a message seems to come from a legitimate source.
■ If you are ever unsure whether it’s really the ATO, do not engage or reply. Instead, phone the ATO on 1800 008 540 or a number sourced from our website to check if it’s legitimate. If you use a registered tax agent, they can help you verify it’s the ATO.
■ Only log onto ATO online services directly, never via a hyperlink.
■ You can check the status of your refund using the ATO app.
■ 50,684 tax and super scams were reported last year.
■ The average dollar amount lost to a tax and super scam was $5600.
People aged 25 to 34 made the most reports to us last year about losing money in a tax or super scam. This was closely followed by those aged 18 to 24.
Most tax and super scams still occur over the phone. But this year the ATO has seen volumes of email (phishing) and SMS (smishing) scams increase.
Top reported scams
ATO’s top three tax and super scams reported last year were related to threats of arrest, fraudulent TFN activity and fake tax debts.
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June Ramli is the editor of DailyStraits.com. To stay in touch with June, look her up on Twitter @junesairaramli