Scammer cash in at tax time

Whether you look forward to a refund or dread the yearly bureaucratic process, tax time is upon us in Australia. This also means it’s an opportune time for scammers to cash in on your hard earned dollars… and your personal details.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) reports that in 2017 it received over 81,000 reports of scams, with $2.3 million reported lost and almost 10,000 people accidently sharing their personal information.

Cybercriminals use this time of year to exploit the vulnerable and the unprepared amongst us, but we can prevent our details being ‘taxed’.

Here are our top tax time cybersecurity tips, courtesy of Stay Smart Online and the ATO:

    • Keep your private details private. Don’t give out your Tax File Number, date of birth or bank details unless you’ve checked the person you’re dealing with is who they say they are and they genuinely require these details.
    • Check before you send. You should always verify the identity of the person you’re dealing with through an independent source, such as a phone book or online search. Don’t ever use the contact details provided by a random caller or in an unsolicited message sent to you.
    • Passwords are the key to your details. Create unique passwords, use two-factor authentication and don’t share passwords with others. For more password help, read our Password Security Research Paper here.
    • ‘Free’ Wi-Fi could cost you. Hotspots and public Wi-Fi are great for general browsing and checking the news, but are not secure. Use of these to do your tax could lead to someone seeing what you are doing and accessing your details.
    • Be scam aware. Be wary of messages demanding funds or asking for bank account details for refunds. If you’re ever unsure about whether any message is really from the ATO, call the ATO Scam Hotline on 1800 008 540, or visit
    • Be smart with social media. Share your foodie pics and holiday snaps on social media, but never your tax file number. Also ensure your privacy settings are reviewed regularly.
    • Think before you click. Scammers are getting smarter and more creative with how they target you. They now send SMS and online messages that look like the real deal, but with links to fake websites or attachments that you definitely shouldn’t open.

Falling victim to an online scam, a virus or other internet nasty can be frustrating and unpleasant but help is always available. Remember you can verify a tax-related message by contacting the ATO Scam Hotline on 1800 008 540, or visit Scams can also be reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch.

If you have been a victim of cybercrime such as fraud, report it to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN).

For more advice on avoiding tax time cybersecurity issues, we recommend you watch this Cyber Security at Tax Time webinar. Jamie Norton, Chief Information Officer at the Australian Taxation Office, and Nathan Morelli from the Australian Cyber Security Centre provide tips to help organisations protect themselves against cyber incidents this tax time.

What would a serious cybersecurity incident cost you or your organisation? Contact us today to find how our cybersecurity solutions can help.

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