Anti-virus and Internet security software specialists, AVG (AU/NZ) are warning Australians of the threat to personal identity with the latest scams being created for the tax return season.
With 2.4 million individuals, that's nearly 20% of tax payers, using the Australian Tax Office’s e-Tax electronic tax return service, cyber criminals have discovered a vast new audience for their activities. While the filing of tax returns directly via the e-Tax service is secure, other communications are opening Australians to risk.
AVG (AU/NZ) is seeing that, just as paper tax filings can be subject to mischief, Australians are now falling prey to fraudulent emails, texts and phone calls purporting to be from tax officials.
Security Evangelist at AVG, Lloyd Borrett, is urging Australians who have adopted electronic communication as the norm not to let their guard down when filing their tax return this year.
"In upcoming months, when the prospect of tax refunds is on everyone’s mind, be alert to emails and phone calls about money owed to you by the ATO or the need to recalculate your tax,” says Borrett.
While the ATO uses emails and SMS for service alerts, it will never request the confirmation, update or disclosure of confidential personal details.
“Think about all the information included in your return - your tax file number, details of investments, retirement accounts, employment, property you own, even your children's childcare. In the hands of cyber criminals, your identity and more could be at risk," says Borrett.
AVG (AU/NZ) have several tips to offer individuals filing their tax returns online to stay protected and keep personal data only between them and the ATO:
- always open e-Tax filing directly from the ATO’s website, never click through from an email invitation
- always use a trusted Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection where there is a firewall in place and Internet security installed
- update the computer's anti-virus software and before beginning the compilation of documentation, run an update on both the PC and smartphone’s security software to ensure optimal protection is being acheived
- when compiling information with a tax agent or family members from multiple locations always email rather than fax and delete files from the email server once the return has been filed; and
- if suspect communication from “the ATO” is being received do not click on any links in the email or answer phone questions, instead report them to the ATO and keep an eye on the ATO’s security page for the latest tax related scams.