THE Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is providing taxpayers with simple ways to protect themselves from scammers as part of Stay Smart Online week.
Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson says it’s important for taxpayers to remember to stay vigilant and to help family and friends be wary of emails, phone calls and SMS during tax time that claim to be from the ATO, even if they seem legitimate.
“There are a few simple steps taxpayers can take to protect themselves online, including only giving out personal details to people you trust, keeping tabs on your tax affairs so you know what to expect, and to be cautious about personal information that you share, especially on social media,” she said.
Ms Anderson said the ATO has been working with a number of organisations including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissioner (ACCC) and major retailers to warn people about buying gift cards to pay for alleged tax debts.
“We’re working with major retailers to make sure there is a warning at the point of sale for pre-paid gift cards, and we’re providing information to retail staff so they can provide advice to at-risk customers,” she said.
“We are particularly concerned that vulnerable Australians who have little interaction with us are not only being led to believe that this is a legitimate request of payment from the ATO, but that they are also giving out personal information.”
Ms Anderson said the ATO works hard to maintain the highest levels of security, but warns that if someone gets a hold of a taxpayer’s personal information it can be used to impersonate them and engage in fraudulent activity.
“The most common scams reported to the ATO are phone calls where a scammer demands payment for a fake tax debt or emails requesting personal identifying information or a fee to release a refund,” she said.
“These scammers use sophisticated techniques to get your money or data and can often use a variety of techniques such as ‘spoofing’ telephone numbers and replicating our branding in emails to try and legitimise the interaction.
“We encourage everyone to play their part in stopping scammers by reporting them to our scam line on 1800 008 540.
“Your reports help us refine our approach to dealing with scams, which in turn protects the Australian community.”
If you’re unsure about the validity of an ATO interaction call the scam hotline on 1800 008 540 or forward any suspicious emails to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au
For more information about protecting your personal information, visit ato.gov.au/identitycrime or staysmartonline.gov.au
For the ATO’s latest scam alerts, visit ato.gov.au/scamalerts
Five simple ways to protect your family and friends from identity crimes
Know what to protect
Personal information that could be used by scammers to impersonate someone can include their full name, date of birth, current address, bank account numbers, credit card details, tax file number, drivers licence or passport details, and any passwords.
Remind them to keep their personal information safe and secure
If personal information is stolen it can be very difficult to get back. It’s best to store things like a tax file number or birth certificate somewhere safe and secure – for example, don’t carry it around in a wallet or handbag or saved on a phone.
Warn them if they share too much on social media
Scammers can use information published on social networking sites to steal identities. If you see someone sharing personal information online, remind them that they could be putting themselves at risk of targeted attacks. It’s also a good idea to make sure profiles are set to private, and to be cautious about which friend requests to accept.
Be suspicious of requests for personal information
If you notice that your family and friends have received a request for their personal information, tell them to treat the request with caution. Scammers can be believable and will sometimes quote personal information to sound authentic, so if you hear that someone is asking for personal information, consider the possibility that it may be a scam. To check if a call, email, SMS is from the ATO call us on 1800 008 540 to confirm.
Know legitimate ways to make payments
Scammers may use threatening tactics to trick their victims into paying false debts in pre-paid gift cards or by sending money to non-ATO bank accounts. To check that a payment method is legitimate, we have a list which can found on our website that outlines methods when dealing with us, visit ato.gov.au/howtopay