CANBERRA: Tax time is prime time for scammers, says the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) who are urging Australians to keep their personal information secure and to report any suspicious activity immediately. Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson warns that identifying information like tax file numbers, bank account numbers or your date of birth are the keys to your identity, and can be used by scammers to break into your life if they are compromised. “We cannot stress this enough – your personal information must be treated like your bank PIN. If someone knew your PIN, they would have access to your hard-earned income, and it’s the same with your personal information and tax return,” Ms Anderson said.
“The ATO works really hard to maintain the highest levels of security, but if someone gets your personal information, they can use it to impersonate you and engage in fraudulent activity.” “More than one thousand taxpayers reported their personal information had been compromised in June, up by 26 per cent from May, so we know it is a real problem at this time of year.” Ms Anderson said the best defence against scammers was keeping your information safe and knowing what to do if you are targeted. “You can’t be too careful when it comes to your personal details. If you are contacted by anyone purporting to be from the ATO and you have any doubts about whether it is legitimate, immediately hang up and get in touch with the ATO to verify the call,” she said.
“By alerting us we can immediately take steps to secure your identity and limit the damage done by scammers. Your information also helps us understand the constantly evolving scams and therefore better protect the community from falling victim to them.” So how do you tell the difference between a call from a scammer and a legitimate call from the ATO? “Tell-tale signs include a caller threatening you with arrest or jail, aggressive or rude behaviour, or asking you to pay money into strange bank accounts or settle tax debts with things like gift cards or iTunes cards. We would never do this,” Ms Anderson said. “If something doesn’t sound right, you can always check your myGov account, ask your tax agent, or call us directly on 1800 008 540 to see if the contact is legitimate. Be especially wary if you’re asked to make a payment, make sure you only use one of the methods listed on our website.”