Tax scams have seen an increase in the past year, with cybercriminals finding smarter ways to cheat people out of their money. Impersonating an Australian Taxation Office (ATO) representative is one of the clear-cut ways that these cybercriminals have found to work. According to ATO assistant commissioner Karen Foats, 114,625 ATO-impersonation scams have been reported, and 843 victims have also reportedly paid as much as AU$2,844,092 in total to scammers last year, a very significant increase compared to previous years.
Taxpayers may be contacted via phone calls with scammers demanding payment and will also use scare tactics like facing arrest for not complying to their demands. Alternatively, text messages and emails are used to notify victims that their tax refund is waiting, all they need to do is click on the link provided and enter their personal details. This method opens up victims to financial loss and identity theft.
Scammers have also resorted to using WhatsApp as a way to impersonate the ATO by using pre-recorded voice messages. Similar to the phone call scam, they also demand immediate payment of tax debt and threaten immediate arrests if unpaid. They will then proceed to ask victims to pay via unusual methods, and even go as far as to request for a photo of their driver’s licence or passport via WhatsApp.
These impersonation scams target the elderly, as they are seen to be more vulnerable and give out their financial details without further confirmation. However, these fraudulent activities are very precise, making it difficult to differentiate the real from the fraud. In order to counteract this, the ATO have shared their tips to stay safe around tax time:
- Always log into myGov to check your messages
- Ensure you have a strong password with the security code feature turned on
- Always keep your personal information private, this will never be asked of the ATO in order to receive a refund
- Think before you click unsuspecting links
- Never pay tax using iTunes cards, gift cards, or Bitcoin
The ATO also advises to keep your devices cyber-safe and up to date. In order to remain safe online, Trend Micro offers Premium Security. It will protect your personal information online, safeguard you against email scams, and protect your privacy on social media.
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