Top tips to avoid online fraud this tax time

- June 19, 2018 3 MIN READ

With the end of the financial year beckoning, it’s time to start thinking about lodging your return. Thanks to the adoption of cloud accounting solutions and online processing, it is easier than ever to lodge your tax.

Whilst this is great news for individuals and small business, tax time is also fraught with fraud as cybercriminals attempt to dupe small businesses and the unsuspecting consumer.

Common cons during tax time include scammers sending suspicious communications from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or Centrelink in the form of emails, faxes, SMS and phone calls aimed at tricking Australians into handing over money or personal details.

Recent research[1] by Norton has found over 200,000 Australian small businesses were impacted by cyber threats in 2017, with cybercrime costing these SMBs on average $10,299 in the past 12 months.

Mark Gorrie, ANZ Security Expert, Norton suggests business and individulas need to take action in order to avoid being caught out.

Here’s Gorries top tax time tips to avoid cyberfraud

Beware of emails, SMS and calls from the ‘Australian Taxation Office’ (ATO)

The ATO may use letters, email, phone calls, or SMS to contact you for a number of reasons, including to remind you of a payment that is due. However, the ATO will never:

Ask you for your Tax File Number or bank details via email or SMS.

Contact you using social media sites like Facebook or Twitter to ask for your personal information;

Send you an email from an unsolicited email address or provide your personal information to anyone without your consent.

The ATO may phone you, but they will never threaten taxpayers with gaol time nor ask for the tax debt to be loaded onto a prepaid card. 

If you’re suspicious call the ATO directly

If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the ATO, take down their information and call the ATO’s office to validate their identity and their request. You can also report suspected scam email by forwarding them the email.

Use security software on your computer and backup regularly

Using software to protect your home and business network is the first line of defense against attempts by criminals to steal or compromise your personal information.

Be sure your computer is fully patched and up-to-date

Apply all patches for your operating system and any third-party applications. This will ensure that your computer isn’t at risk of being exploited in a malicious spam campaign that uses known software vulnerabilities.

Avoid opening attachments in suspicious emails 

Key tell-tale signs that an email may be illegitimate include: incorrect logos within the email; the communication does not address you as the recipient by name; it is not sent from a legitimate @ato.gov.au sender; is unexpected; the message contains poor grammar; and/or, the email asks you to click a link that appears to lead to a government website but when hovering over the link it does not lead to an ato.gov.au address.

Know the status of your tax affairs and your accounts

If you know you don’t have debt with the tax office, then an email or phone call that states otherwise cannot be real. Monitor your credit cards for unauthorised charges, as well as your credit report for new accounts that you didn’t open. Fraudulent activity may indicate that you’re at higher risk of further fraud, including stolen tax refunds.

Use a secure Wi-Fi connection or a VPN 

Many consumers use an e-filing service to file their taxes. If that’s you, one of the best ways you can protect yourself is to make sure your internet connection is secure and not a publicly available network. If you are not sure about the security of your internet connection use a VPN. It’s an easy way to protect your data as it’s transmitted – almost like a secret code that only you and your VPN share. 

Secure print materials

Securely store copies of your tax return, and shred draft documents and tax notes you no longer need. 

If the offer is too good to be trueit is

If you’re not expecting a tax refund from the ATO, then one won’t magically appear 

Invest in or renew your security subscription

Use tax time as an annual reminder to ensure your online security software and processes are up to date. As a reminder, security subscriptions receive a 100% immediate deduction for small businesses.

[1] Norton’s SMB Cyber Security Survey, March 2018. Sample: 1,048 business owners and operators, conducted from October 5 – 23, 2017 by Gundabluey Research and QOR (Quality Online Research).

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