Why it is important to protect your tax file number.
Some of you may already be aware how important it is to protect your tax file number (TFN) from getting into the wrong hands.
Crooks can use your TFN for TFN fraud, such as present themselves as you to the ATO , do your tax return and take your tax refund.
Sometimes the ATO can detect and stop it in time. But even if they do, such a TFN misuse causes what they call a ‘compromised TFN.’ Compromised TFNs may mean you have additional security criteria added to your ATO file. They can be a pain for life and if possible, should be prevented. For instance, the additional measures may be that your tax agent has to ask the ATO for access to your tax files and be given a shorter window such as 48 hours to access.
If you are engaging a new tax agent, they should be identifying you, to prevent TFN fraudsters.
Top tips to protect yourself from tax related scammers
Our top tips to prevent being scammed include:
The ATO will generally begin communications with you via mail. So if they have your current address, you will see letters coming to you before phone calls.
The ATO is always happy to receive your call if you suspect it is not them calling you, to verify if their contact was genuine. The ATO’s dedicated scam reporting line is 1800 008 540.
To see latest ATO alerts and for more information visit ato.gov.au/scams
To confirm any ATO activity such as a fine or a payment request, you can access your myGov account, or contact your tax agent or the ATO. If you are unsure about whether a call, text message or email is genuine, don’t reply. Call the ATO on 1800 008 540 to verify.
Guard your identification identity, personal and financial information – be careful when clicking on links, downloading files or opening attachments. Only give your personal information to people you trust, and try not to share it on social media. Shred all financial and identifying information when disposing it. Watch out for scammers stealing your financial or identity information in your letterbox or if visible to people at work, car or home. For example, a visitor in someone’s home, stole financial documents and used them to borrow money in the name of identity stolen victim’s name.
Be careful on ways to pay the ATO, generally not by cash at a park. Know legitimate ways to make payments – scammers may use threatening tactics to trick their victims into paying false debts via pre-paid gift cards or by sending money to non-ATO bank accounts. To check that a payment method is legitimate, visit ato.gov.au/howtopay. In general, check the BPAY code is 75556 for ATO. Even debt collection agencies should direct you to pay to ATO directly such as BPAY code 75556 with reference number.
Report any scam attempt to you, we all need to help stop scammers trying it and getting away with it.
If someone out of the blue calls to threatens you or demands payment, makes you feel adrenaline. Chance are, it is a scammer. Make it your rule to wait 24 hours before taking any action. In the meant time, ask ATO, tax agent or call back the organisation to confirm if they called you.
When someone calls and asks for personal, financial or identification – ask why do you need to know? Or simply hang up and take the time to verify the call. For instance, I have recently had this occur to me, the callers were impersonating being staff from ABS – Australian Bureau of statistics.
Listen to your phone’s suggestions if it may be spam. My phone alerts me of suspected spam callers. Many people choose to ignore calls they do not recognise, as genuine calls will usually leave a message. Beware of phone number spoofing too, when scammer make there number appear to be someone they are not.
Talk to your family and friends about scams – if you or someone you know has fallen victim to a tax-related scam, call the ATO as soon as you can or report it here.