As we head into tax time, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is advising people to take extra care in sharing personal information and to be aware of scams.
According to ATO Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson, scams increase significantly in the tax period. Over 48,000 scams were reported to the ATO between July and October last year, with a five-fold increase in scams from January to May this year.
“Already this year, the ATO has registered over 17,067 scam reports. Of these, 113 Australians handed over $1.5 million to fraudsters with about 2,500 providing some form of personal information, including tax file numbers,” says Assistant Commissioner Anderson.
Scammers are particularly active at tax time as the number of people sharing their private information for tax lodgements rises significantly. The ATO advises people to be cautious when sharing their personal information with anyone they don’t know, particularly over the phone or by email.
And while some scams are easy to identify, the ATO reports that scammers are becoming more sophisticated and aggressive.
“Scammers locate genuine ATO numbers from our website and project these numbers in their caller ID in an attempt to legitimise their call – a form of impersonation known as “spoofing”. While we do make thousands of calls per week to the community, our outbound calls do not project numbers on caller ID. If one appears, it’s most likely a scam,” says Assistant Commissioner Anderson.
“People should be wary of emails, phone calls and SMS during tax time that claim to be from the ATO, even if it seems legitimate. If you’re ever unsure about whether a call, text message or email is genuine, call us on 1800 008 540. If it’s real, we will connect you with the right area of the ATO.”
The ATO advises people to be cautious if asked for their bank account or personal details, or if they receive a demand for money, refunds or free gifts. Also, avoid requests in emails or SMS requesting you to click on a link to log onto government or banking digital services.
What to do if you suspect a scam
If you are suspicious about a scam attempt, you can report it to the ATO by calling 1800 008 540.
Do’s and Don’ts to avoid a tax scam
- DO – only share your personal information with people you trust and organisations that legitimately need it.
- DO – regularly change your passwords on your mobile devices and computers.
- DO – keep your anti-virus, malware, and spyware protection software up-to-date.
- DON’T – click on suspicious links.
- DON’T – reply to any SMS or email with your personal or financial information.
- DO – report a scam. If you think you or someone you know have been contacted by a scammer or caught by a scam, contact the ATO on 1800 008 540.