The ATO will never ask for: your Tax File Number or bank details via email or SMS; it will never contact you using social media sites like Facebook or Twitter to ask for your personal information; nor will it send you an email from an unofficial email address. The ATO will most certainly never threaten taxpayers with gaol time nor ask for the tax debt to be loaded onto a prepaid card or gift voucher.
If you’re not sure about the validity of any communication from the ATO, call them directly.
Take down their information, hang up, and call the ATO’s office using a number from the official website or a previous letter you have received from the ATO to validate its identity and its request. You can also report suspected scam emails by forwarding them to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au
Use comprehensive security software on your computer and backup regularly
Norton LifeLock research found that 47 per cent of Australian workers claim to not use a comprehensive security solution on their personal mobile, laptop, tablet or desktop computer. Yet, using robust security software, such as Norton Security Premium to protect your home network and personal devices is the first line of defense against attempts by criminals to steal or compromise your personal information. Tax time should be an annual reminder to ensure subscriptions are up to date.
Look for misleading signals in an email and never open attachments if you are unsure
52 per cent of working Australians claim to have received a fake phishing email scam, with one in ten (10 per cent) losing money or personal information as a result. Key tell-tale signs that an email may be illegitimate include: incorrect logos within the email; the communication does not address you as the recipient by name; it is not sent from a legitimate vendor email address; is unexpected; the message contains poor grammar; and/or, the email asks you to click a link that appears to lead to a government website but when hovering over the link it does not lead to an official web address.
Know the status of your tax affairs and your accounts
The Norton LifeLock survey revealed that one in ten respondents (11 per cent) claim to never monitor their bank account for fraud, while 20 per cent have never changed their online bank account logins. Getting to know your finances will ensure you can identify any unexpected changes in your account as a result of cybercrime quickly. If you know you don’t have debt with the tax office, then an email or phone call that states otherwise cannot be real. Monitor your credit cards for unauthorised charges, as well as your credit report for new accounts that you didn’t open. Fraudulent activity may indicate that you’re at higher risk of further fraud, including stolen tax refunds.
If you’re filing your taxes online, use a secure Wi-Fi connection or a VPN
Sixty-six per cent of Australian workers claim they do not use a VPN for their personal mobile, laptop, tablet or desktop computer, yet eight per cent of Australian workers have sent personal financial info/documents via public Wi-Fi. If that’s you, one of the best ways you can protect yourself is to make sure your internet connection is secure and not a publicly available network. If you are not sure about the security of your internet connection use a VPN. A VPN can help protect your personal information by encrypting all the data you send and receive online.
This post was written by Mark Gorrie for Kochie’s Business Builders and is republished here with permission.