Tax time scams: How to stay alert this tax season

 Last updated: 30 May 2024 |  Estimated read time: 4 Minutes

Tax time can be a whirlwind of sorting receipts, crunching numbers, and filling out forms. It’s can also be a prime time for online scammers to try their luck on unsuspecting consumers and businesses. That’s why we’re here to guide you through the common traps and how to steer clear of them.

Understanding tax time phishing scams

Tax phishing scams are crafty attempts by cyber criminals to swipe your private details or convince you to hand over funds. They’re after your online banking logins, email passwords, and other sensitive info. Once they’ve wormed their way in, they could commit financial fraud or identity theft.

Sneaky tax scam tactics to be aware of

These scammers are clever with their timing, striking when you’re swamped with tax tasks. They use email and phone scams to lure you into fake websites or to hand over personal details. They might even threaten legal action or dangle a fake tax refund to trick you. Some common tax phishing scams you need to be on the lookout for include:

Email tax scams

The classic tax scam! Beware of emails masquerading as the ATO, complete with links to websites that look eerily official. These sites could be traps, designed to snatch your login details and personal information. For instance, a recent scam involved a counterfeit myGov login page. Unsuspecting individuals entered their details, only to have their real accounts hijacked and personal details stolen, leading to identity theft and fraudulent tax refund claims.

Phone tax scams

The fear factor tax time phone call where scammers impersonate the ATO or IRD and try to scare you into revealing sensitive information or paying non-existent fines. Scammers may demand immediate payments for you to avoid legal trouble—don’t fall for it.

SMS tax scams

Tax time text message scams crop up every year, with messages claiming to be about your tax return. Clicking on a link in these messages could lead you to a fake site on your mobile device. The goal? To panic you into paying a supposed tax debt, often through untraceable methods like cryptocurrency or pre-paid debit cards. The 2023 tax time SMS scam was a prime example of this1.

Too-good-to-be-true

They say that if something is too good to be true, then the chances are it isn’t real. It’s best to err on the side of caution if an email offers an unbelievable deal or tax refund. These scams play on urgency and curiosity to lure you into their web. So think twice before clicking.

Charity cons at tax time

These scammers look to exploit your generosity by setting up bogus charities or impersonating real ones. They’ll ask for donations and offer fake tax receipts. Giving back to worthwhile causes can be a good thing to do, but always verify a charity’s legitimacy before opening your wallet.

Imaginary investment opportunities

The end-of-financial-year frenzy! As the financial year wraps up, be wary of investment opportunities promising sky-high returns. These scams prey on the pressure to make last-minute decisions for tax benefits.

6 tips to help stay clear of tax scams

1. Stay on top of your communications

Always double-check texts, calls, and emails. Hover over email addresses and links to verify their authenticity. If something feels off, it’s usually a good idea trust your gut and don’t click.

2. Secure your emails

Use email services with built-in security features like spam filters to keep those phishing attempts at bay.

3. Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) where possible

MFA is your digital bodyguard that combines passwords with one-time codes sent to your device for an extra layer of security.

4. Ignore the scare tactics

Real tax officials don’t use fear to get their point across. If you’re ever in doubt, reach out to them directly through official channels.

5. Only make payments through official platforms

Always use the recommended methods for settling any tax debts through secure government portals.

6. Look at Government resources

The ATO website is your go-to for all things tax. If you’re ever unsure, that’s where you’ll find the answers.

We’re here to help

As well as being aware of scammers around tax time, there are also some other positive steps you can take to navigate tax time like a pro.

Remember, we’re always here to help you navigate your financial journey securely. Visit our Security Hub for safety tips and other useful information to help protect you and your assets online.

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