With one month left to lodge your tax return, beware of tax time scams
September 2012: SCAMwatch and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) are urging consumers and small businesses to be aware of scam calls or emails around tax time.
With only one month left before tax returns must be lodged, scammers are ready to slip under your radar while you rush to get your papers in order. Small businesses should be extra-vigilant – scammers are known to target you at this particularly busy time of the year.
How these scams work
Scammers pretending to be from the ATO will typically approach you by phone or email and ask for your personal or financial details. They will also use a plausible sounding story to make the scam seem legitimate, for instance claiming that you have overpaid your tax and are entitled to a refund.
Scammers will go to any lengths to slip under your radar – from impersonating an ATO representative on the phone, to creating official looking but invalid email addresses, to creating a bogus ATO website.
Here are some common tax time scams to be aware of:
Tax refund scams – these scams typically involve the scammer telling you that you are entitled or owed a tax refund. In order to receive the refund, the scammer claims that you will first need to pay an ‘administration’ or ‘transfer’ fee. They may also ask for your financial details so that they can transfer the money.
Phishing emails– scammers will often try to steal your identity or money by sending you an email that pretends to be from a trusted entity such as the ATO. The scammer will ‘fish’ for your personal details by trying to get you to fill in a form, or click on a link that will allow them to infect your computer with viruses and malware.
Business grant scams – scammers have been known to call you claiming to be from the ATO and pretending that you are eligible to receive a business grant. You are then told to phone a specific number to receive the grant. If you call, the scammer will likely ask you to provide your personal details or pay an amount upfront to have the money released.
Remember: The ATO will never call or email you out of the blue requesting you to confirm, update or disclose confidential details like your name, date of birth, address, passwords, credit card details etc.
If you receive an email or phone call out of the blue claiming that you are entitled to a refund or a grant, press ‘delete’ or just hang up.
If you’re not sure whether a call or email is a scam, verify who they are by using their official contact details to call them directly. Never use contact details provided by the caller – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
Scammers are known to send emails that appear to be from an official ATO email address. The email may contain spelling mistakes, use poor grammar, not appear to load up correctly, or include faulty links.
If you receive an email that claims to be from the ATO with links or attachments, press ‘delete’ – the link may open onto a bogus ATO website asking for your personal or credit details, and attachments may contain a malicious virus.
Always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a good firewall. Only buy computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source.
Never send money or give your financial details to someone you don’t trust - it’s rare to recover money from a scammer.
If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
If you think you have received a scam claiming to be from the ATO or about tax, report it to the ATO by emailing ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au, or call 13 28 61(individuals) or 13 28 66 (businesses).
You can report scams to the ACCC via the SCAMwatch report a scam page or by calling 1300 795 995.
For more information on tax scams, visit the ATO website.