How to safeguard your finances from cybercrime this tax season

| June 19, 2018

Winter has arrived bringing with it the end of another financial new year. With the evolution of 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 or individuals, families and small businesses.

Online fraud is extremely prevalent during tax time, heightening the risk for consumers to knowingly disclose or open the virtual front door to personal information, losing hard earned dollars to scammers.

Common cons during tax time include scammers sending suspicious communications from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or Centrelink in the form of emails, faxes, SMS and phone calls aimed at tricking Australians into handing over money or personal details.

According to Norton research, over 200,000 Australian small businesses were impacted by cyber threats in 2017, with the price of cybercrime costing Australian SMBs an average of $10,299 in the last 12 months. Alarmingly, almost 1 in 3 businesses who fell victim to cybercrime believed they had a low to very low risk of becoming a cybercrime victim.

While the realities of cybercrime can feel daunting, practicing basic behaviors, such as proper password hygiene and taking ownership of your identify will go a long way to protecting your firm.

Ten tips to protect your company

1. 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, including to remind you of a payment that is due.

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 may phone you, but never threaten taxpayers with gaol time nor ask for the tax debt to be loaded onto a prepaid card.

2. If you’re not sure about the validity of any communication from the ATO, call them directly. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the ATO, take down their information and call the ATO’s office to validate their identity and their request. You can also report suspected scam email by forwarding them to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au

3. Use security software on your computer and backup regularly. Using software to protect your home and business network is the first line of defense against attempts by criminals to steal or compromise your personal information.

4. Be sure your computer is fully patched and up-to-date. Apply all patches for your operating system and any third-party applications. This will ensure that your computer isn’t at risk of being exploited in a malicious spam campaign that uses known software vulnerabilities.

5. Look for misleading signals in an email and never open attachments if you are unsure. Key tell-tale signs that an email may be illegitimate 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.

6. 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.

7. If you’re filing your taxes online, use a secure Wi-Fi connection or a VPN. Many consumers use an e-filing service to file their taxes. If that’s you, one of the best ways you can protect yourself is to make sure your internet connection is secure and not a publicly available network. If you are not sure about the security of your internet connection use a VPN. It’s an easy way to protect your data as it’s transmitted – almost like a secret code that only you and your VPN share.

8. Secure print materials. Securely store copies of your tax return, and shred draft documents and tax notes you no longer need.

9. If the offer is too good to be true, it is. If you’re not expecting a tax refund from the ATO, then one won’t magically appear.

10. 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% immediate deduction for small businesses.

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Mark Gorrie

Mark Gorrie is the Head of Sales and Marketing for the Norton Business Unit of Symantec in the Pacific Region.  Mark has worked for Symantec since 2002 and holds an Economics degree from the University of New England.