Beware of Scams in 2019

In the era where nearly, every person has access to technology of some sort and the internet, scammers are starting to update themselves with the development of technology and the internet culture to create scams that are more believable for the majority.

While 2018 had a surge of online and digital scams, it is estimated that this will only be on the rise in 2019. Below are some of the most common ones related to your finances and taxes in which you need to be aware of.

“Can you Hear Me” Calls

This surfaced around 2017 where an unidentified number will call your phone and the person on the other line will ask “Can you hear me?”. Of course, the typical response for most of us will be “Yes”. Your voice on these calls, however, are being recorded in order for the person on the other line to obtain voice signature when you say “Yes” so they can then use it to authorize fraudulent charges over the phone. The BBB Scam tracker has reported over 10,000 reports in 2017 in relation to this scam, but none of the reports have resulted in an actual loss of finances as far as we know.

If you receive a call that seems shady and the first thing they ask is “Can you hear me?” instead of “Hello”, reply with “Who is this?” or “I can hear you” instead of “Yes”.

Fake Bank Apps and Emails

With the technological upgrades in the recent years, nearly every person has a smart phone and a majority of smart phone users will have a bank application or two on their phone for convenience. Fake Bank Apps have been created which make them look extremely similar to the real apps. Once downloaded and your personal information is entered, they can then use your information to log in to your real accounts.

A survey previously conducted by a multi-national cybersecurity firm has shown that nearly one in three people worldwide has mistakenly downloaded a fake bank app. The best way to prevent this from happening is to log onto your bank’s website and download the app via the website link. Banks have also tried to stop this from happening with two-way authentication or security code text messages, so you are notified if anyone has tried to log into your account to make any transactions.

Another bank related one that is often used by scammers is to send you emails or text messages pretending to be from the bank in order to trick you to revealing your private information. Some examples include but are not limited to receiving text messages saying “New Alert! Confirm your current Phone Number”, “your ____account has been suspended. Click here to re-verify your data”, “There was an error processing your credit card…” or “*IMPORTANT MESSAGE* Please call [Bank Name] urgently on ______ or log in on [fake link] “, all of these attached with some form of link for you to click on.

Some examples of fake email notifications you may get include but are not limited to: “Please find attached confidential documents”, “You have a message available on your online account. Please click below to login in and view”, “You have been locked out of your account”, all of these attached with some form of link for you to click on.

While some of these may be easy to spot, especially if you do not own an account with the bank you are receiving correspondences from, many of these are quite difficult to spot in this day and age especially when the scammers try to mimic the emails and message recipients to look like it is from the actual bank.

The main thing to look out for in this situation is to never click any links provided in your email or text messages and generally most banks will not send text messages as correspondence.

If you are unsure, always make sure to either log in to your account on a separate device (in case of virus contained in the communications opened) or call up the bank to verify personally. Never use any links or numbers that were sent with the scam, always use the ones provided on the actual Bank’s website.

Don’t forget to run virus check for spyware and virus afterwards as well.

ATO Scams

Possibly the most common one you will see surfacing from July – December every year in Australia.

ATO scams generally come in the form of a call saying you owe them money and need to pay immediately or else you will be arrested. As of December 2018, it is estimated that over $830,00 Australian Dollars have been stolen via the ATO scam.

The important thing to be aware of is the ATO will never contact the tax payer via any other means than registered mail, or sometimes through mygov. If you do receive a call, the call is always anonymous with no caller ID.

If you have a tax agent that is looking after your accounts, you can be sure that the ATO will only ever be in touch with your accountant / tax agent regarding your matters and will never contact you directly.

The ATO will also never threaten or black mail anyone with immediate arrest, they will never be rude or aggressive or request for you to pay through iTunes, pre-paid visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct bank transfer. They will also never request a fee in order to release a refund owed to you or send you SMS with links to click on.

If you have received a suspicious call like the one above, the best thing to do is call the ATO via the number stated on their website to check or contact your tax agent or accountant.

ASIC Scams

This type of scam will target tax payers who have an established entity (such as company, trust or superfund). Scammers have been contacting those on the ASIC registry pretending to be from ASIC itself asking them to pay fees or give personal information to renew their business names.

Similar to the bank and ATO scams, the emails or text messages will usually include links which provide you with an invoice with fake payment details and can infect your computer with malware when you click the link.

ASIC has released a statement on their website at the time of writing to note that an email is probably a scam if they request phone payment, making a payment to receive a refund or requesting you to send credit card or bank details via phone or email.

As a general rule of thumb, if you have an accounting firm that’s taking charge as your registered ASIC agent, all correspondences will go to them. If you receive something you believe may be suspicious, it is best to run it by your ASIC agent first or call up ASIC directly via they number provided on their website to enquire. Be sure to also run anti-virus to scan for any malware or spyware that may have opened with the opening of the suspicious correspondence.

How to protect yourself

While it is projected that in 2019, at least half of the calls you will receive will be scam this year, there are some cautious measures you can take to protect yourself from becoming a victim of a tax or bank related scam.

To help protect yourself:

  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date and scan regularly. Most antivirus software these days come with anti-spyware and anti-malware functions too. If yours does not, perhaps considering finding one that covers all three.
  • Be wary of emails that don’t address you by name or misspell your details and have unknown attachments. Always check the email address or number that the sender is reaching you on. Most banks, ATO and ASIC will generally only send you correspondence by registered mail. If they email you, it will be from an official domain (such as ____@ato.gov.au). If you are unsure, log onto the official website and call up to enquire.
  • Don’t click on any links on a suspicious email. If there are correspondences that require you to click the link to log into your account, never click the link and always log in via the official website on a separate device.

If you suspect or you have been scammed, make sure you call your bank immediately to report the scam, scan your computer for viruses and file a police report.

If you would like to report a scam, you can do so on the scam watch website.

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