As we approach tax time, we also head into the season where scammers increase their activity – that is, looking to hoodwink small business and individuals alike.
Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, so it pays to be aware of what is real and what is fake. Because unfortunately they’re not going away any time soon, with over 216,000 scams reported to Scamwatch during 2020, resulting in total financial losses of around $1.75 million dollars.i
Here are some recent scams to be aware of:
With increased communications being sent out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this has also created ample opportunity for scammers. By pretending to be from official organisations, scammers aim to find out your personal information (such as your usernames, passwords, bank details, etc.) – this is known as phishing.
There have been emails and SMS messages impersonating the Department of Health and the ATO, providing links to what are purported to be information pages. One example is an SMS which says that you are due to receive a support payment and asks for your bank details.
To know what is real and what’s fake, don’t click on links in messages – instead visit the organisation’s website directly, or call them if in doubt.
Verifying your myGov details
Another common example of a phishing scam is receiving an email or SMS asking you to verify your myGov details. Often the message will have time pressure, saying that your account will be locked if you don’t do so within 24 hours.
You will get email or SMS notifications from myGov whenever there are new messages in your myGov inbox, however these messages will never include a link to log into your myGov account.
Automated calls regarding a suspended TFN
Your tax file number (TFN) is important for both you and/or your business’ tax and superannuation purposes, which is why hearing it has been suspended can be alarming. Linked to your name and date of birth, this piece of personal information should generally only be shared with the ATO, banks, your superannuation fund, the Department of Human Services and your employer.
Under law, any individual, organisation or agency that is allowed to ask for your TFN information must not record, collect, use or pass on your TFN (unless allowed under taxation, personal assistance or superannuation law).ii
A common scam involves an automated phone message advising you that your TFN has been suspended. The purpose of this is to convince you to pay a fine or transfer money to reactivate it.
The ATO do not suspend TFNs or need you to pay for reactivation, nor will they send unsolicited pre-recorded messages to your phone. So if you hear this scam message, hang up.
Another worrying message to receive is that you have tax debt that needs to be paid off. This scam is often done through SMS, voicemail and direct calls, whereby the scammer pretends to be from the ATO. They then will ask you for payment, which is often through methods such as cryptocurrency or gift cards.
Suffice to say this isn’t regular procedure from the ATO, so if you receive a call or message like this, ignore or hang up.
Scams are ever-evolving but are often based on similar concepts, as shown above. A helpful resource to keep up-to-date with current scams is the Scam Alerts page on the ATO website.
While scammers can be conniving and convincing, it’s important to err on the side of caution whenever you receive an unexpected message or call, or whenever your personal details are requested. Never give out any personal information unless you can independently verify the identity of the person or organisation you are providing it to.
Should you ever be unsure whether someone requesting your financial details is a trusted source, don’t hesitate to get in touch for our advice.