Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson says that while Australians are ‘generally good’ at catching out scams, 48,084 scams were still reported to the ATO between July and October last year. In total, $1.5 billion has been lost to frauds, and about 25,000 people have handed over personal info since October.
“We have already seen a five-fold increase in scams from January to May this year and typically expect further increases during the tax time period,” Ms Anderson said.
“The large number of people lodging their tax returns means scammers are particularly active, so it’s important to keep an eye out for anything that looks suspicious and protect your private information.”
Ms Anderson warns that some scams may be very convincing. A scammer may project a real ATO phone number into their caller ID, or use the ATO logo on their website.
“People should be wary of emails, phone calls and SMS during tax time that claim to be from the ATO, even if it seems legitimate.”
During this year’s National Consumer Fraud Week, experts also warned consumers to be wary on social media, and Consumer Affairs Victoria invited consumers to take their scams quiz to test their online savvy.
Older Australians should be especially wary, as scammers often target people over 65 who have access to their superannuation and substantial assets.
The Australian Tax Office offers these tips to avoid “tax time traps:”
- If someone asks you for your bank account or personal details, or demands money, refunds or free gifts, be cautious.
- Only share personal information with people you trust and organisations with a legitimate need for it.
- Keep mobile devices and computers secure by changing your passwords regularly, keep your anti-virus, malware, and spyware protection software up dated and don’t click on suspicious links.
- Don’t reply to any SMS or email with your personal or financial information.
- Avoid requests in emails or SMS requesting you to click on a link to log onto government or banking digital services.
They urge consumers to visit their website for more information on scams and approved payment methods so that scams are easier to spot.
If you think you or someone you know may have been scammed or contacted by a scammer, monitor your accounts closely and contact the police, and if it was a tax scam call the ATO immediately.