The latest figures that the Australian Taxation Office has released about scams is alarming!  The ATO reported receiving 1,812* of ATO impersonation scams, just in the month of February 2022, indicating that individuals have reported losing $14,200 to scammers and the most common method of scam payments was by credit card.

We can’t stress enough; your personal information needs to be kept safe.  Thieves can commit identity crime with very little information, such as your name, address, tax file number or date of birth.  Once they have obtained this information, they can use this information to access your bank account, purchase items on your credit card, steal your superannuation, apply for a government benefit, or even sell your house.  The list is endless!

The Australian Taxation Office has systems in place which can detect tax returns which are suspected of being fraudulent.  These systems help the ATO to stop fraudulent refunds being paid.  They can also help taxpayers re-establish their identities. Just recently a clients’ tax return was put on hold so that we could confirm their identity.

“We are investigating a potential comprised TFN, we are carrying out an investigation because the TFN entered in the tax return may have, or has been, misused by someone else”.

If you or anyone you know has been affected by an ATO impersonation scammers, you should report it directly to the ATO.

You should only ever share your personal information with people whom you trust or organisations with genuine need for it.  When disclosing your personal information be careful if you are in public, identify thieves can listen to your conversations.  Any request for personal information should be treated with caution, check the credentials of the person requesting information.

There are things you can also do to protect yourself, personally, here are a just a few;

  • Do not carry your passport or birth certificate with you;
  • Have a lockable mailbox;
  • Avoid leaving personal information in your glove box;
  • Protect your electronic documents in a trusted data vault website;
  • Never share your personal information (eg. TFN or Bank account details) on social media;
  • Do not share your passwords & update them regularly (consider password protection programs like Last Pass)
  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date;
  • Make sure you have a firewall, and it is update
  • Use a pin on your phone

The Australian Taxation Office also has voiceprint, which you can set up.  It records the sound, rhythm, physical characteristics and patterns of your voice.  Once you have registered your voiceprint, the ATO will use it to identify you.

For businesses there are things you can also do to protect yourself, here are a just a few;

  • Installing alarms;
  • Filing documents in lockable storage units;
  • Changing all passwords on a regular basis; (consider password protection programs like Last Pass)
  • Ensuring you are logged out of systems when not in use and your computers are locked;
  • Make sure your computers, other devices and software have current anti-virus software.
  • Restricting new employee’s access to systems and credentials
  • Removing access to systems from employees after they have left your employment.
  • Protect your myGovID;
  • Ensure your staff understand what is appropriate to discuss on social media or via email communications.
  • Always confirm the identify of new clients;
  • Do not use USB’s or external hard drives from an unfamiliar source;
  • Use a spam filter on your email account;
  • Monitor your accounts for unusual activities or transactions regularly;
  • Do not download programs or attachments unless you know they are legitimate

The best way to stay ahead of scammers is to remain vigilant & take precautions.  If you notice suspicious behaviour, you can advise the Australian Taxation Office confidentially via their Tax Integrity Centre.  If you have been the victim of identity theft or suspect someone may have used your Tax File Number, please contact the ATO as soon as you can.  Help for identity theft.

*Table from the Australian Taxation Office

Table 1: Monthly comparison of reported ATO impersonation scams
 Date SMS Email Phone
Feb 22 244 1,072 496
Jan 22 405 178 357
Dec 21 368 184 231