Some things are like clockwork, and the regularity of scams are one of them. With July drawing ever closer, here come more tax scams.
If it seems like you can’t catch a break and take a vacay from scams, it’s because they just won’t let up. Cybercriminals will do what they can to free your money from your grips, and so you need to do what you can to stop that from happening.
Unsurprisingly, scams occur around different times and can be very seasonal. Shopping scams tend to hit fever pitch when there’s a holiday rush to buy things, and tax scams kick up dust when it’s tax time, too.
In July in Australia, it will be tax time once again, and so those tax time scams are coming back, with more emails, phone messages, and text messages suggesting people need to pay up when it’s actually just a scam, with numbers on the rise.
With over $77 million in Australia lost in the first four months of 2021 compared with around $175 million for all of 2020, it’s pretty clear scams are shaping up to be a big problem this year.
In time for the tax season, security organisation Proofpoint has found new phishing attempts by scammers pretending to be from the ATO, and sending people to a fake version of the myGov page, attempting to convince with digital subterfuge. Also known as phishing, these fake government pages are meant to trick you into believing you’re at the real website so that you hand over details, or even so that you process transactions and give scammers money by seeming real.
While phishing links are a problem, Proofpoint notes that other tax scams may come with fake invoices linked to ransomware, locking down parts of your computer in exchange for a ransom, usually requested in a digital cryptocurrency. Both, however, are problematic and can result in losses, making it important to stay aware of what comes in.
“Tax-related lures are often very convincing, making it difficult for Australians to determine their legitimacy,” said Crispin Kerr, Vice President of Proofpoint for Australia and New Zealand.
“We anticipate these attempts at financial theft and fraud will continue in the lead up to and around tax time, likely related to the promise of tax refunds or COVID-19 related rebates or government assistance,” he said.
The moves come as scammers become better at mimicking officials and organisations, which can make it difficult for anyone who receives a message to know whether they’re seeing something legit or something fraudulent.
Typically, scams can be worked out at the email level, because scammers can fake how an email looks all too easily and convince with a passing glance, but will always lose out at the email send address.
Real emails from government organisations will come from an official government website address, and that’s something a scammer can’t fake. Much like how an email from PayPal will actually come from PayPal and not Gmail, the email send address is often the telling sign you’re looking at a fake. In comparison, a scammer’s email will invariably arrive from a totally different domain, with the hopes that you don’t check.
However, scams can become more complex when email isn’t the only approach used.
“Scammers are getting better at impersonating organisations such as the ATO, making it harder for Australians to verify the legitimacy of communications,” Kerr told Pickr.
“If you receive a phone call, email or SMS it’s a good idea to contact the organisation directly and confirm if it is indeed legitimate, and if not report it to the ATO, as well as the government’s Scamwatch service,” he said.
“If you are unsure if something is a scam, do not give away personal or financial information, don’t click on links in emails or text messages or open any attachments.”
Essentially, the learnings on how to avoid falling into a tax scam are the same as they are with any scam, and even any email or message or even phone call that you might receive: take it with a grain of salt, and think before you click. If it’s a phone call, think before you act, because it might just be less than legit.
Instead, hang up or delete the message, and then Google the official organisation online, and call the number, checking whether that call or email was the real deal. Scammers are hoping you won’t do that, and by looking past their fakes and finding out for yourself, you stand a better chance of surviving not just the tax scam season, but all scams unscathed.