How to safeguard your finances from cybercrime this tax season

It’s the end of another financial new year. With technology, what used to be a busy period of balancing books, collecting receipts and lodging return forms has become a quick and easy online process; but one not without risk for individuals, families and small businesses. Research shows that over 200,000 Australian small businesses were impacted by cyber threats in 2017. Alarmingly, almost one in three businesses who fell victim to cybercrime believed they had a low to very low risk of becoming a cybercrime victim.

Practicing basic behaviours, such as proper password hygiene and taking ownership of your identify will go a long way. Here are the ten top tax time tips to help businesses and local residents protect themselves from online fraud during EOFY.

  • Be cautious of emails, SMS’s and phone calls claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The ATO may use letters, email, phone calls, or SMS to contact you for a number of reasons. But the ATO will never ask you for your Tax File Number or bank details via email or SMS; they will never contact you using social media sites like Facebook or Twitter to ask for your personal information; nor send you an email from an unsolicited email address or provide your personal information to anyone without your consent. The ATO will never threaten taxpayers with gaol time nor ask for the tax debt to be loaded onto a prepaid card.
  • If you’re not sure about the validity of any communication from the ATO, call them directly. You can also report suspected scam email by forwarding them to [email protected]
  • Use security software on your computer and backup regularly. It’s the first line of defense against attempts by criminals to steal or compromise your personal information.
  • Be sure your computer is fully patched and up-to-date. This will ensure that your computer isn’t at risk of being exploited in a campaign that uses known software vulnerabilities.
  • Look for misleading signals in an email and never open attachments if you are unsure. Key tell-tale signs include: incorrect logos within the email; the communication does not address you as the recipient by name; it is not sent from a legitimate @ato.gov.au sender; is unexpected; the message contains poor grammar; and/or, the email asks you to click a link that appears to lead to a government website but when hovering over the link it does not lead to an ato.gov.au address.
  • Know the status of your tax affairs and your accounts. If you know you don’t have debt with the tax office, then an email or phone call that states otherwise cannot be real. Monitor your credit cards for unauthorised charges, as well as your credit report for new accounts that you didn’t open. Fraudulent activity may indicate that you’re at higher risk of further fraud, including stolen tax refunds.
  • If you’re filing your taxes online, use a secure Wi-Fi connection or a VPN. Make sure your internet connection is secure and not a publicly available network. If you are not sure about your internet connection’s security, use a VPN. It’s an easy way to protect your data as it’s transmitted.
  • Secure print materials. Securely store copies of your tax return and shred documents and tax notes you no longer need.
  • If the offer is too good to be true, it is.
  • Invest or renew your security subscription. Use Tax Time as an annual reminder to ensure your online security software and processes are up to date. As a reminder, security subscriptions receive a 100 per cent immediate deduction for small businesses.

Mark Gorrie, ANZ Security Expert, Norton

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