Tax time responsible for increase in online scams, here’s how to stay safe

It's the part of the year we all dread, where we have to find all those old invoices, earning statements and receipts in the hope the Government will give us some of our hard-earned money back; it's tax time. Unfortunately, phishing and email scams reach a critical mass during this time of year according to Sieng Chye Oh, a researcher a security software manufacturer ESET

By Alex Choros

It's the part of the year we all dread, where we have to find all those old invoices, earning statements and receipts in the hope the Government will give us some of our hard-earned money back; it's tax time. Unfortunately, phishing and email scams reach a critical mass during this time of year according to Sieng Chye Oh, a researcher a security software manufacturer ESET. "This happens during tax season, because users are already expecting to receive some sort of notice, so they're less suspicious".

Phishing emails attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, credit card details and tax file numbers (TFN) by pretending to be a trusted entity. Psychologically speaking, Oh said these scams are effective because "users feel anxious when receiving emails seemingly from an authority".

TFNs are an important part of establishing and confirming an individual's identity, and as such should be shared with very few people. By obtaining an individual's TFN, a cyber-criminal could convincingly masquerade as that individual on government services.

With Oh's assistance, we've put together a list of a few things to keep in mind when doing your tax online

1. If you get an email in regards to your tax, make sure you double check who it's from. These emails will often arrive from addresses designed to look similar to official ones, there may only be a few characters difference. These emails may also ask for information the ATO or a registered tax agent do not require, such as credit card details, passwords or your Medicare number.

2. Before logging into online services, such as the newly introduced myTax website, look for a lock in your browser's address bar. This will appear to the left or right of the URL (depending on your browser). Also make sure the site's address begins with https:// as opposed to http://.

3. Don't forget common security practices; keep your password to yourself, and change it regularly.

4. Don't use a public PC. If you're going to do your tax return online, do not use a shared computer at a library or cyber café. There is no guarantee to how secure these machines are.

5. It is also important to keep your anti-virus scanner up to date and ensure your computer is free from threats. Key logging viruses allow cyber criminals to collect user's keystrokes, which could reveal confidential information – especially during tax time.

6. Make sure that any tax agent who's website you visit or sends you communications is registered.

Leave a Reply