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Tips to stay safe online this tax time

Tax time is a prime time for cybercriminals to get their hands on your money and personal details. In 2017, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) received over 81,000 reports of scams, with $2.3 million reported lost and almost 10,000 people accidentally sharing their personal information.
 
Here are some tips to help you stay one step ahead and keep safe online this tax time.
 
1. Keep your personal information private
  • Don’t give out your Tax File Number (TFN), date of birth or bank details unless they genuinely required.
  • You should always verify the identity of the person you’re dealing with through an independent source.
2. Beware of ATO impersonation scams 
  • Impersonating trusted agencies like the ATO is a common trick used by scammers. Be wary of emails, phone calls and text messages demanding payment for fake tax debts.
  • A scammer’s approach may sound legitimate, but remember that the ATO will never ask you to pay your tax debt into a non-ATO bank account, via pre-paid cards or with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
  • If something doesn’t sound right, you can always check your myGov account, ask your registered tax professional, or call the ATO directly on 1800 008 540.
3. Create unique passwords

We have so many online accounts now and many of us still use the same password for multiple accounts. The problem is that if a cybercriminal gets into one of your accounts, it can give them access to your other accounts. 

  • Secure your myGov account with a strong password that’s easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess.
  • Use two-factor authentication, like a code sent to your mobile phone.
  • Use a unique password for every account you create online. You can use a password manager to help you securely store your passwords.
  • Don’t share your passwords with anyone, not even your partner, your parents, or your children.
4. Watch out for tax refund scams

Know the status of your tax affairs. If you are aware of the details of any debts owed, refunds due and lodgements outstanding, you are less likely to fall victim to a scam. 

  • Look out for messages offering you a tax refund in return for a fee. 
  • Login to your official myGov account to check your status or contact your registered tax professional. 
  • If you’re ever unsure about whether any message is really from the ATO, call the ATO Scam Hotline on 1800 008 540, or visit ato.gov.au/scams.
5. Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots

Be careful about what you do online when you’re connected to a hotpsot or free WiFi. While it’s ok to check the news or the weather, avoid doing tax time transactions when you’re connected to public Wi-Fi. These networks are unsecured and it's possible that others can see what you're doing when you use them. 

6. Be smart with social media

We often share our personal information online without thinking about where it’s going. This window into your life not only lets your friends and family know what you’re up to, it also gives cybercriminals information to steal your identity or hack into your online accounts. 

  • Change your privacy settings so only friends can see your details.
  • Think before you post! Once information is online it’s almost impossible to remove.
7. Think before you click

Scammers are becoming more sophisticated so it might be hard to tell if a message is really from the ATO or a scam. 

  • Avoid downloading attachments or clicking links in emails or text messages even if they appear to come from someone you know.
  • If you’re not sure, contact the ATO on 1800 008 540 to check if they have sent the message. 
8. Keep your devices up to date

When you’re alerted to a security update for your operating system or one of your apps, don’t ignore it — install it as soon as possible. 

  • Run regular anti-virus scans to help you detect and remove malware (viruses) from your device.
  • Remove any apps you don’t use anymore.
 
For more information on securing your online information, visit the Stay Smart Online website.
 
Last updated: 08 August 2018