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How to avoid falling victim to online tax scams

By Justin Inskip, Director, Westlawn Business Services
19 August 2014

The Tax Office has recently warned the public about fraudulent SMS and emails claiming to be from the ATO. These hoax SMS and email messages have one purpose – to scam unsuspecting taxpayers into disclosing their personal details.

While these fakes can often look very convincing, there are some tell tale signs to watch out for when you receive any message claiming to be from the ATO.

Beware of any SMS or email message that:

    • Is unsolicited. Carefully check whether the email is from a valid ATO email address. Scam emails may include an official-looking email address to give you a false sense of security.
    • Does not address you by your name. For example, it may instead refer to you by your email address.
    • Asks for personal or financial information, such as your date of birth, address, credit card details and PIN. The ATO will never ask you via SMS or email to provide this information. The same goes for your bank or other financial institution.
    • Is poorly worded and contains spelling and grammatical mistakes. Fake emails often contain misspellings, poor grammar and even missing words in an attempt to fool your spam filters.
    • Promises you money.
    • Contains an attachment for you to lodge a form. Opening attachments could download spyware or a virus onto your device.
    • Contains fake links for you to lodge a form. Check any links by moving your mouse over the link and checking the URL which appears in the bottom bar of your browser. If the link address looks suspicious, don’t click it.
    • Requests additional information before a refund can be paid to you.
    • Claims that you owe the ATO money or that your account is in arrears and the ATO will take you to court. The ATO will only start legal action after all other methods to collect the money have been exhausted. They will not advise you via email or SMS.

If any of the above applies to your message, consider it suspect.

Report suspect SMS and emails

If you do receive a suspect SMS or email claiming to be from the ATO requesting your personal information, you should report it to the ATO. By doing this, you may save others from falling victim to the scammers.

Accessing ATO online services

Whenever you access the ATO’s online services, enter the ato.gov.au or my.Gov.au URL address in your browser rather than clicking a link. This will ensure you’re logging into a genuine ATO online service and not a fake site.

Finally, if you think you may have already fallen victim to an online tax scam, call the ATO immediately on 13 28 61. You should also contact your bank or financial institution if you suspect your credit card or bank account details may have been stolen.

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Disclaimer
Westlawn Business Services Pty Ltd provides this information for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers.

Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation.