Tax-time is often synonymous with a spike in activity by cyber-criminals looking to take advantage of vulnerable users. Here are ten tips to reduce your risk during this end of financial year.
Be cautious of emails, SMS or phone calls claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office
The ATO may use letters, email, phone calls or SMS to contact Australian’s for a number of reasons, including to remind taxpayers of a payment that is due. The ATO will never ask you for your Tax File Number or bank details via email or SMS, they will never contact you using social media sites and they will never provide your personal information to anyone without consent. The ATO may phone you, but never to threaten taxpayers or ask for tax debt to be loaded onto a prepaid card.
If you’re not sure about the validity of any communication from the ATO, call them directly
If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the ATO, take down their information and call the ATO office to validate their identity and their request. You can also report suspected scam emails by forwarding them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Use security software on your computer and backup regularly.
Using software to protect your home and business network is the first line of defence 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.
Look for misleading signals in an email and never open attachments if you are unsure
Key tell-tale signs that an email may be illegitimate are the use of incorrect logos within the email, the lack of a recipients name within the email, the email being send from an illegitimate @ato.gov.au email address, poor use of grammar or a call to action that asks the recipient to click on a link that doesn’t 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 card report for new accounts that you didn’t open. Fraudulent activity may indicate that you’re at a higher risk of further fraud, including stolen tax refunds.
If you’re filing your taxes online, use a secure Wi-Fi connection or a VPN
Many consumers use an e-filing service to file their taxes. The best way to protect yourself if you do this is to ensure 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.
Secure print materials
Securely store copies of your tax return, and shred draft documents and tax notes you no longer need.
If the offer seems to good to be true, it probably is
If you’re not expecting a tax refund from the ATO, then one won’t magically appear.
Invest 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 subscription receive a 100% immediate deduction for small businesses.