Tax time email sparks warning over ATO phishing scams as Australians lodge returns

Tax time email sparks warning over ATO phishing scams as Australians lodge returns
  • PublishedSeptember 14, 2023

The email promises a ‘hassle-free and convenient process’.

Australians navigating their tax returns are being warned to be aware of fraudulent emails claiming “more action” is required to receive a refund, as new scam messages do the rounds.

A scam email sent this week, seen by, says a refund has been processed by the Australian Taxation Office but “action is required” before the recipient can claim the money.

“We have processed your refund, and the amount due to you is $328,” it states.

“To ensure a hassle-free and convenient process, we have implemented an online system for tax refund collection.”

The phishing email, which sports the ATO’s branding, directs the recipient towards a “secure portal” to verify their details to “complete the refund process”.

“We appreciate your cooperation and compliance with tax regulations,” the message states.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch is aware of ATO impersonation scams currently circulating, as cybercriminals take advantage of tax time.

“Watch out for messages appearing to be from myGov claiming your tax return has been processed,” it recently warned.

“These are scam messages. Ignore, delete, and block.”

An easy way to spot the message is fraudulent is by clicking on the sender’s information, which reveals it is not from the ATO but rather a spoofed email that features elements of the recipient’s email address.

‘Perfect storm’ for crooks

Cyber safety brand Norton APAC managing director Mark Gorrie said tax time is one period that piques cybercriminals’ interest.

“With the amount of personal and financial information that is being stored and shared at this time, coupled with the stress that comes with filing tax returns, it is the perfect storm for scammers to target Australians,” Gorrie said last week.

“Tax time can be difficult to navigate, and it can be easy to fall into the palm of a scammer offering to ease this burden. But it is important to understand that practising online security should never be sacrificed in exchange for convenience.

“In the wake of greater sophistication and a rise in AI that is aiding cybercriminals in evolving and developing their devious tactics, it is more important than ever that Australians are continuing to educate themselves on the warning signs.”

Aside from ATO impersonation scams, Australians should also look out for tax-related identity theft and dodgy tax preparers offering to complete tax returns, Gorrie said.

Identity theft occurs when cyber crooks access a victim’s account, impersonate them and fraudulently lodge refunds with the ATO using the stolen information.

Australians should also be wary of scammers posing as tax agents promising larger returns and a speedier process.

The fraudsters will trick the victim into giving them access to their myGov accounts or take personal details and payment before disappearing, Gorrie warned.

To avoid these tricks, Gorrie recommends keeping your tax file number safe, never sharing your myGov password and ensuring your online accounts such as myGov use two-factor authentication.


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