One of the most popular Google searches is ‘is there an ATO scam alert at the moment?’ for good reason: There are always tax scams.
Reported by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), in 2002 alone, over $167,000,000 has been lost. Over 55,000 reports have been made with financial losses of 11.8%. A lot of Australian’s have been duped into handing over their hard-earned money, and the sucker-punch is – even the most savvy of us have been attacked.
What Do Scammers Do?
Scammers contact you by phone, email or SMS and ask for information about you, your bank account, your credit card number or the money you have. A scammer will say things to make you anxious, afraid of getting into trouble and make you act quickly before you have time to think or check if the information is true.
The Top 10 Scams
There are a plethora of ways the average Australian can be scammed, but leading the pack are investment scams, with over $130,000,000 lost. The second category most scammed is from dating and romance scams, with $9.5 million lost. That’s a huge gap, and one you should be aware of.
Phishing leads the way in which information is stolen, with a whopping 17,000 reports made declaring the top delivery method via texting. The age group most likely to be duped, are between 25 to 34, with the over 65s coming in a close second. Males make up the largest gender affected by amounts lost, with women making the highest number of reports.
April has seen an increase in fake TFN (Tax File Number) and ABN (Australian Business Number) applications. These scams offer to get an Australian tax file number for a fee. Instead of delivering, they steal money and personal information. These scams are often advertised on social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Pro Tax Tip: TFN applications are free. A Tax agent can help. Make sure they’re registered with the Tax Practitioners Board before employing them to help with any of your financial information.
How To Apply for a TFN
A TFN is your personal 9 digit number that you will have for life and identifies you for tax and superannuation purposes. You take your TFN with you when you change jobs, your name and if your move interstate of overseas.
Your circumstances depend on how you apply for a TFN, and depends on if you’re an Australian citizen with an Australian passport, an Australian resident, foreign passport holders, permanent migrants and temporary visitors, and people living outside Australia.
After you’ve received your TFN, make sure you keep it safe. There are only a select few people and institutions that will need your TFN, and include:
- The ATO
- Banks and financial institutions
- Super funds
- Your registered tax agent
February 2022 – Cryptocurrency Email and SMS scams
In this scam, scammers pretend to be from the ATO and tell people they are suspected in being involved with cryptocurrency tax evasion. When contacts, the target is asked to ‘connect their wallet’ and provide detailed information via a link. The link then takes the person to a fake myGov log on page designed to take personal information.
Pro Tax Tip: The ATO will NEVET send an SMS or email with a link to log into their online services. While they do use SMS and email to ask for contact to be made, they will never ask for return personal information through these channels. Phone 1800 008 540 to check before handing over private information to the ATO. If you’re unsure, your registered tax agent will act on your behalf.
How To Avoid Scams
There are ways to avoid potential scams:
- Don’t click on email or SMS links from unsolicited sources
- Look for grammatical and spelling errors as these often suggest the email or SMS is a scam
- Search for the web site independently and research who is contacting you
- Always be cautious when contacted via phone, email or SMS with investments or prices won
- Always be careful is the caller forces you to do something
How To Protect Yourself
Scammer are increasingly sophisticated in how they contact their targets, and target everyone from all backgrounds, ages and income levels across Australia. Not one group of people are safer than another.
Scams succeed because they look like the real thing, and are designed to catch you off guard. Scammer take advantage of new technology, products and major events to create believable stories that are highly convincing to get you to act.
Prevention is the biggest way to protect yourself:
- Be alert that scams exist
- Do not open suspicious SMS messages of emails, pop-ups or attachments
- Do not answer calls asking for remote access of your computer
- Hang up if you’re not sure and independently track down the company
- Register your phone number on the Do Not Call register
- Ask to be removed from the list if you’re called
- Block the number or email address from your device
- Install and update the latest anti-virus software
- Update your passwords regularly
- Be alert
How To Spot A Fake
Some document, web pages and emails look like the real thing, however anything electronic can be easily replicated however there are some things that can clue you in:
- You receive a generic instead of a personal greeting
- You receive a message from the name of an organisation that doesn’t exist
- The quality is poorer
- Spelling and grammatical errors
- Overly official or forced language
If you’re unsure, or want to keep up to date with scams, here are some government web sites you can check to see if you’re being targeted.
- Stay Smart Online
- Money Smart
- ATO Identity Crime Advice
- ATO Scam Advice
- Attorney-General’s Department
- Australian Communication and Media Authority
- eSafety – Protecting Your Personal Information
With tax season around the corner, scammer will be sharpening their technological pencils with new scams designed to get your personal and financial information. If you’re unsure of any tax scam or if you think you’ve been targeted by a tax scam, ITP tax accountants are well versed in what to do and can liaise with the ATO on your behalf. Phone 1800 367 487 and chat with a friendly professional today.