As we approach the end of the tax year, it’s normal for cybercriminals to kick into gear, and that means scam time is back. How do you avoid getting caught?
It’s probably no surprise that scams operate all year round, the fierce moneymaking schemes for online criminals that they are, but they can be particularly aggressive at particular points.
Tax time is one of those, because as we’re taking our finances online more than ever, it’s no shock that scammers will try to convince you that the banking message you’re receiving or the places you’re logging your details are actually from them, and not from the real place.
Understandably, this is immensely frustrating, and while technology has made it possible to track and lodge tax returns on your computer with ease, or log on to your bank to check those finances, it has also made it easier for criminals to trick you in the process, so much so that over 200,000 Australian small businesses were affected by cyber threats last year alone, something that goes to individuals and families as well.
As we approach the end of the financial year, it makes sense to be more aware of what can happen, and the dangers that lurk online, attempting to steal and scam your hard earned money into their cold disconnected digital hands.
One of the best ways to do this is to know what your financial status is ahead of time, being aware of your finances so that no one can trick you.
Scam alerts will often try to suggest that you have a debt with the tax office, and that you should follow a form on a fake page to phish your details, so a cybercriminal can log in and steal your real money. It’s a common issue, and it’s especially useful to watch your accounts for any fraudulent activity.
On your computer, be sure that you have internet security, and that it’s patched up and good to go. Make sure that’s the same for your computer itself with Windows and macOS updates, and don’t open attachments in emails if you’re not sure.
It’s worth noting that security scams have long relied on the email attach and fake email to spoof and phish for your details in a similar capacity to the texts we now receive purporting to be from our trusted financial institutions.
Tax time can be particularly more aggressive, and Symantec’s local Security Expert Mark Gorrie knows this better than anyone, suggesting that people watch where the messages come from, and to be cautious of messages claiming to be from the Australian Tax Office, the ATO.
“The ATO may use letters, email, phone calls, or SMS to contact you for a number of reasons, including to remind you of a payment this due,” said Gorrie.
“The ATO will never ask you for your Tax File Number of bank details via email or SMS,” he said. “They will never contact you using social media sites like Facebook or Twitter to ask for your personal information, nor send you an email from an unsolicited email address or provide your personal information to anyone without your consent.”
The simple truth is that scammers and cybercriminals will do what they can to get you to hand over your details, and pretending to be from a government institution is one if the most obvious ways to do this. In a world where everything is electronic, it can be all too easy to quickly misplace trust without thinking, making it important to always be vigilant.
Furthermore, it’s important to know that the tax office won’t engage in threats or intimidation, and won’t tell you that payment is a priority over messaging. That’s an instant red flag for security scams.
“The ATO may phone you, but never threaten taxpayers with gaol time nor ask for the tax debt to be loaded onto a prepaid card,” added Gorrie.
Ultimately, if you have any issues or questions about messages purporting to be from the ATO, you can call the Australian Tax Office yourself, or report suspected scams by forwarding them to the ATO’s fraud department at ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au.
“If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the ATO, take down their information and call the ATO’s office to validate their identity and their request,” he said.
With the cybercrime costing Australian small businesses over $10,000 on average in the last year, it’s important to not get caught out, and with individuals also in the crossfire, it’s necessary for everyone to be on guard.