It’s Christmas in July! Well kind of. Tax time for many Australians means they have a little extra spending cash in their wallet thanks to a decent refund from the taxman. It’s also a pretty exciting time for us at Lockwood & Ward as our accountants really get to enjoy the pleasure of mountains of paperwork and endless calculations.
However, it is also a pertinent time for scammers. And just as we warned you last year, the ATO expects thousands of hard working Australians to be hit by these fraudulent activities. In fact, according to the ACCC in 2013, Australians were scammed out of a combined $89 million.
It can be a time of year wherein you are more likely to provide your details for the ever elusive tax refund, but we have some tips to help you become aware of and recognise the signs of fraud and unscrupulous activity.
How to recognise fake SMS and emails that pretend to be from the ATO
The days of finding a ‘Nigerian Prince’ wanting to offer you an inheritance for the exchange of your bank details are fading and these types of emails are easily recognised at a single glance as fraud and should be deleted immediately. However these days, emails scams are becoming more and more sophisticated. The email may look like a real, genuine email from the ATO and can be very convincing to those who may not know how to spot a fake email.
If the emails are one or many of the below, then you may be dealing with a case of fraud:
- Not from a valid ATO address (but may look as though it is from an official email)
- Do not address you by your name, or uses your email address instead of your name
- Asks for your personal or financial details (in particular, date of birth, address or PIN number) – This is a big warning sign. The ATO notes they will never ask for these details via SMS or email
- Poorly worded, containing grammar errors
- Promises money – this one should be the most obvious
- Contains an attachment
- Contains fake links (we suggest moving your cursor over the link, not clicking, and seeing where you’ll be redirected to. If it’s not to the ATO’s official site, then don’t click it.)
If the SMS or email you have received fits the above categories – delete immediately.
Report SMS and emails offering tax refunds in exchange for your personal details
Tax refunds are calculated after you’ve reported your information – not before. As a warning, tax payers should note that any SMS or email that requests additional information before a refund can be released is a hoax.
If an SMS or email says that you owe money, or that your account is in arrears and you will be taken to court – it’s time to ignore it.
The ATO will not send this information in an email or as a text. The phone, mail, an external collection agency or a personal visit are the methods more likely to be used.
Here are a few examples of phishing emails from the ATO website: