Top tax time scams and how to spot them

Australians are being warned to remain on guard as scammers work to take advantage of tax time.

Jun 25, 2024, updated Jun 25, 2024
Photo: Lindsey LaMont on Unsplash

Photo: Lindsey LaMont on Unsplash

The warning comes as Norton data reveals 14 per cent of Australians say they have personally experienced cybercrime in the past 12 months, losing an average of $863.79.

Norton APAC managing director Mark Gorrie said the storage and sharing of personal and financial information around tax time created the “perfect storm” for scammers to strike.

“It can be easy to fall into the trap of a scammer offering to ease this burden,” he said.

“However, it is important to understand that cyber safety practices should never be sacrificed in exchange for convenience.”

“AI is aiding cybercriminals in evolving and developing their devious tactics. It is more important than ever that Australians are continuing to educate themselves on the warning signs.”

YouGov research commissioned by Commonwealth Bank (CBA) found although nine in 10 Australians are confident they could identify scams, almost one in three failed to spot them when tested.

CBA general manager of group fraud James Roberts said it’s important to stay vigilant and updated on the latest scam trends.

“Scammers are the most opportunistic criminals and will actively campaign to capitalise on tax season,” he said.

“We urge people to talk to their social network and remind them to stop, check and reject anything suspicious.”

Read on to find out how to spot some common tax time scams.

Tax-related identity theft

This scam occurs when cyber criminals access a victim’s myTax account and fraudulently lodge refunds from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) using stolen personal information, such as a tax file number.

Gorrie said that after the fraudulent claim is lodged, the cybercriminal is more likely to keep your data, leaving you vulnerable to further identity-related crimes.

To avoid this form of identity theft, he recommended keeping your tax file number safe by shredding any documents that contain personal information before you throw them away, and using strong passwords along with two-factor authentication to protect sensitive online accounts such as myGov.

If you suspect your tax file number and identity have been compromised, Gorrie said you should immediately report the incident to the ATO.

ATO impersonation scams

KnowBe4 security awareness advocate Martin Kraemer said the impersonation of the ATO, or individual ATO employees, is popular across social media platforms.

“The intent is to get you to interact with the pages, send messages, and ask questions with the end goal of tricking you into sharing personal information such as email addresses, phone numbers and bank account details,” he said.

Offical ATO accounts can currently be identified with a blue tick next to their handle on Facebook, and a grey tick on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter).

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In February, ATO-branded emails with links to fake myGov websites were the most commonly reported scam by the community.

About 75 per cent of all email scams reported to the ATO over the six months to March linked to a fake myGov sign-in page.

Some examples of scammers impersonating the ATO. Source: ATO

Kraemer said since the ATO prioritises secure communication, the organisation would never send links to log on to online services through email or social media.

These services should instead be accessed directly by typing or into your browser.

Although the ATO may use SMS or email to ask you to contact it, it will never ask you to send personal information through these channels.

Likewise, the ATO would not send you a text with a link to access your tax refund, or an email with a QR code to update your multi-factor authentication details.

CBA noted some ATO-impersonators also aim to take personal information such as bank card details through realistic-looking websites sent through SMS links.

Gorrie said the ATO would never threaten arrest, fines, or suspension of your tax file number.

If you have received a suspected scam email or SMS, he said you should not click on any links, provide any payments, account log-in information, or other personal information.

Dodgy tax preparers

Some scammers capitalise on Australians’ desire for maximum tax refunds by promise substantial returns and a speedier process.

But Gorrie said after asking for access to victims’ myGov accounts, the fraudsters then lodge tax returns through the ATO’s myTax web portal or take personal details and payment before disappearing.

To avoid this scam, he said you should never share you myGov password with anyone, and enable multi-factor authentication on your myGov account to protect you from unauthorised people accessing your account.

“If someone approaches you claiming to be a tax preparer, you can check that they are registered on the Tax Practitioners Board by visiting their website to verify the legitimacy of their claims,” Gorrie said.


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