Aussies warned to watch out for tax time scams

SafeWise experts have years of firsthand experience testing the products we recommend. Learn how we test and review

Norton, a leading internet security and antivirus brand, has recently issued a warning to Australians to be on the lookout for scams during tax time. With Australians typically preparing to file their returns with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), cybercriminals are on the lookout for easy ways to get ahold of your personal information, money or your identity. At tax time, lots of personal and financial information is being stored in the hands of tax preparers and in government portals like MyGov. 

Mark Gorrie, managing director at Norton says, “There are certain times each year that pique cybercriminals’ interest and tax time is one of them.” 

In a period where scammers have their interest piqued, it's important to know the warning signs or some typical scams you might encounter so you can avoid falling prey to them.

ATO impersonators

Be cautious of those pretending to be associated with or a representative of the ATO. You’ve likely gotten a voicemail or SMS at least once in the past claiming to be the ATO, telling you that there is an issue with your tax return and you’re being fined.

These impersonators' goal is to scare you into providing your sensitive information, so don’t believe anything they say. They will typically ask you to ‘confirm’ or provide your TFN, bank details, or other sensitive information.

The ATO will never use threats or aggression if there is a real issue, and will not ask you to confirm self-identifying details by replying to an SMS. If you’re unsure, call the ATO on 1800 008 540.

Fake tax agents

Many people experience stress in lodging tax returns. To ease this stress, you might enlist the help of a tax agent to prepare and lodge your tax return. It's convenient, low-stress, and they can help reduce the tax you need to pay or increase your initial return. Scammers capitalise on this and will often lure you in with promises of a huge return and a no-stress process.

If you’re unsure whether the person you’re talking to is a scammer or genuinely a tax agent, have a look at the Tax Practitioners Board. If they aren't registered or their name doesn't appear, you could be at risk. Never share your ATO or MyGov login with anyone, especially an unregistered tax agent. 

How to avoid tax time scams

While it's difficult to avoid them altogether, you can still keep yourself and your personal information safe. With AI getting progressively more advanced and cyber criminals often using them to develop new tactics, we recommend upping your security game and taking the following measures. Ensure you keep sensitive information, like your tax file number, and any personal or account details private. Don’t share them with anyone who’s not a registered tax agent, or part of the ATO or MyGov, for example. Make sure your accounts and government portals (like MyGov) have strong passwords (we recommend using a password manager) and two-factor authentication enabled. Definitely don’t click on any suspicious links or messages, and if you’re unsure of their validity, contact the ATO or relevant government body directly. 

Many Australians are taken advantage of during tax time, but you don’t have to be one of them. If you think your tax file number has been comprised or you've experienced a tax-related scam, contact the ATO.

Hannah Geremia
Written by
Hannah has had over six years of experience in researching, writing, and editing quality content. She loves gaming, dancing, and animals, and can usually be found under a weighted blanket with a cup of coffee and a book.

Recent Articles