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Watch out for tax time scams

Watch out for tax scams

Tax time is the prime season for scammers, with calls, emails and SMSs already circulating for 2020.

Common scams include asking you to verify your account, such as your MyGov account, login to your internet banking to view a refund, or claim an unexpected “lost” tax refund.

So far this year, according to ScamWatch, Australians have lost over $634 million in scams, with phone and email scams making up over 65% of scams that resulted in loss of funds.

But it’s not just tax scams. Scams can come in many forms all year round – and this year scammers are also taking advantage of COVID-19 to try and coax financial information from you, impersonating government departments to offer subsidies or special payments, superannuation funds, or banks requesting that you update your personal information.

It can be tricky – texts and emails are cleverly designed to look legitimate, and callers are well-trained at impersonating credible businesses to trick you into giving up personal information that can lead to financial loss.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

How to spot a phishing scam

Each year, fraudsters get more sophisticated, producing convincing emails, SMSs, letters and phone scripts to encourage you to give up your details and your hard-earned cash.

These tips may sound like nothing new, but they’re key to protecting yourself. Here’s how to spot a scam, and what to do if you receive a suspicious call, text or email.

  1. Scammers will often ask for personal and financial information over the phone or request access to your computer. Never give out your personal or financial information or agree to let them remotely access your computer. If you’re unsure, call the business back, using a phone number you find on their website or in the phone book, to check if the call is real.
  2. Is there a sense of urgency? Scammers will often claim you need to take action NOW or in an urgent timeframe.
  3. If you’ve received an email you’re unsure of, check the email sender. The sender’s email address will likely contain spelling errors or won’t match the official website.
  4. A dodgy email will contain dodgy links too, such as malware or to sites designed to maliciously capture your information. Financial institutions will never include links to internet banking, and the ATO will never include links in their emails or SMSs to MyGov. Scammers on the other hand, do. Never click on a link through an email - always navigate to secure portals like internet banking yourself by typing the web address directly into the web browser.
  5. Look out for irregular spelling or grammar in SMSs or emails – particularly when it’s in the business name!
  6. Question anything that suggests you need to pay money or fees to access a tax refund, click on a link and enter your details or change a password, or give remote access. And you should never have to provide card details to receive a refund.

What else can you do to protect yourself against scams?

You can take extra steps to protect your personal information, even when you haven’t received a scam call or email. For instance, locking down your privacy settings on your social media can help from releasing personal information to people you don’t know – you’d be surprised at just how much information about your private life is available on your Facebook page!

Set a strong password. Avoid using your birthdate or your dog’s name – particularly if, from above, this information is available on your social media.

If you’re out and about, be cautious when using public WIFI and avoid doing your banking or completing your tax return from an unsecured public wifi connection. The risk of your information being intercepted is much greater on a public network, so save this for when you’re in a more secure network, such as your private home WIFI.

Finally, don’t forget to make sure your devices are updated, and regularly run anti-virus checks on computers and laptops to remove any nasty viruses or malware.

I’ve been scammed – what do I do?

If you’ve fallen victim to a scam, particularly if you’ve lost money or have revealed personal information, there are some steps you can take to limit any further losses or damage:

  • If the scam relates to any losses from a P&N Bank account, contact us immediately. For instance, if you’ve sent money overseas or to someone you don’t believe is legitimate, or have revealed any banking or card details, we may be able to put a stop on the account to stop any further funds being taken and investigate the incident.
  • If the scam relates to another business or government agency, contact them immediately to see how they can help to protect you from further loss.
  • Report the scam to ScamWatch. If the scam involves the theft of your identity or unauthorised transactions, you can report the incident to the Australian Cyber Security Centre using the Report Cyber Crime online portal.
  • Tell your friends and family and encourage them to be vigilant about protecting their own information.

If you would like more information about current scams, or how scammers convince you to give up your personal information, visit ScamWatch.gov.au.

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