It’s coming up to tax time, which is great news for those few that enjoy filling out extra paperwork and visiting their accountant.
Last year, thousands of Australians were scammed out of a combined $89 million in 2013, according to an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report that was released yesterday.
It’s unfortunately also a time of year when you’re more comfortable providing your details to sort out your tax return and get your affairs in order. Here are five tips from the Australian Taxation Office on being aware of, and recognising, signs of fraud and unscrupulous activity.
Simple tips to recognise fake SMS and emails that pretend to be from the ATO
These aren’t all ‘Nigerian Prince’ style emails that you can tell at a single glance should be deleted without opening and some can actually look convincing, the ATO warns.
If the emails are one or many of the below, then you may be dealing with a case of fraud:
- Not from a valid ATO address (but may look as though it is from an official email)
- Do not address you by your name, or uses your email address instead of your name
- Asks for your personal or financial details (in particular, date of birth, address or PIN number) – This is a big warning sign. The ATO notes they will never ask for these details via SMS or email
- Poorly worded, containing gramma errors (pun intended) – this helps to avoid filters
- Promises money – Do we need to explain why this one is unlikely?
- Contains an attachment
- Contains fake links (the ATO suggests moving your cursor over the link, not clicking, and seeing where you’ll be redirected to. If it’s not to the ATO’s official site, then don’t click it.)
If the SMS or email you have received fits the above categories – head to the official ATO website and give them a call.
Report SMS and emails offering tax refunds in exchange for your personal details
Tax refunds are calculated after you’ve reported your information – not before.
“Any SMS or email that requests additional information before a refund can be released is a hoax,” they warn.
If an SMS or email says that you owe money, or that your account is in arrears and you will be taken to court – it’s time to ignore it.
This information will not be sent in an email or as a text. The phone, mail, an external collection agency or a personal visit are the methods more likely to be used.
Use online services via the official ato.gov.au
Don’t use other websites or methods, other than phoning the official number, to do business with the ATO. If they text you, it’s probably not them.
You’ll be prompted to sign in with a TFN and password and often AUSkey. If you aren’t asked to login, beware – it’s not the ATO. Double check the address bar.
Keep your TFN and passwords secure
Don’t share your password, and do not respond to emails with your TFN or password.
When are SMS and emails used by the ATO? For promotional or information services. Reminders, notifications, requests for you to contact the ATO and confirmation may be sent in these formats.
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This article first appeared on Property Observer.