With the advancement in technology, scams are becoming more sophisticated and harder to spot. The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) reports that they received over 67,500 cybercrime reports over the 2021-21 financial year, an increase of nearly 13% from the previous financial year 1.

Popular scams from 2021 include fake tax debt, needing to update your financial information, including your details on myGov, paying bills through alternative payment methods and suspensions to your tax file number (TFN). The scams come from people pretending to be from the ATO and other agencies such as the Australian Federal Police.

Email scams

Data released from Westpac in November shows more than 1.2 million Australians have been scammed in the past 12 months. Two types of email scams that have been on the rise for small businesses are business email compromise and ransomware scams.

  • Email compromise scams are when a cybercriminal will pose as a supplier and send an invoice with different payment details. This puts business owners at risk of sending money directly to those who have stolen the vendor’s identity.
  • Ransomware is another cause for concern, with scammers encrypting data found on the network they hacked and extorting the small business that owns the data for money to regain access to such data.

On top of those two types of scams, you should also stay vigilant when receiving emails from the ATO asking you to update your financial information. In November, scammers were sending emails asking them to update their financial information on an attached form to process their tax refund.

If you receive any emails that seem strange, don’t open the attachment, or click on any of the links. Forward the email to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au and delete it straight away.

Phone scams

One of the latest tax scams is scammers pretending to be from the ATO and telling them they have a tax debt that needs to be paid straight away.

In August, a popular phone scam was the new payment methods scam, where scammers were demanding money through:

  • ‘Cardless cash’ ATM withdrawals
  • Retail gift cards from JB Hi-Fi, Myer or Woolworths
  • Courier services who collect the cash payments; and
  • Cash delivery made in person at a pre-determined public location.

The ATO will never ask for payment through this method. Phone calls from the real ATO will show up as ‘No caller ID’ on your phone, however, if you’re ever unsure whether it’s the actual ATO, do not reply. Report the call to the ATO’s scam reporting line on 1800 008 540­­­

On top of phone calls, according to Channel 9 more than two-thirds of Australian phone owners reported they had been contacted through text message by a scammer in the past 12 months 3. The most common text scam in Australia right now is the Flubot scam. Cybercriminals will attempt to impersonate a legitimate business and tell the recipient they’ve missed a call, missed a package, or have an unheard voicemail.

The ATO has confirmed that they will use phone, email and SMS to contact people but will never:

  • Send a pre-recorded message to your phone
  • Threaten you with immediate arrest
  • Demand payment through unusual methods like gift cards or payments to personal bank accounts; or
  • Ask you to stay on the line til payment is made.
Fraud invoices

Fraudulent invoices or false billing scams involve targeted attacks such as phishing, hacking and ransomware. These scammers will often request you or your business to pay fake invoices for directory listings, advertising, domain name renewals or office supplies.

Research conducted by Xero shows one in five SMEs have been targeted with fraudulent invoices, experiencing an average loss of $15,467 4.

How to protect yourself

You have more of a chance of protecting yourself from these scams by simply being aware of them and remaining vigilant. There’s nothing wrong with being wary of emails, phone calls or text messages that you receive from unknown sources. Taking the time to call the ATO or your supplier directly could save you thousands.

Utilising tools such as multi-factor authentication codes and PayID can give not only give you but your customers peace of mind when sending funds to an unknown bank account.

To protect yourself from false billing, never agree to a business proposal on the phone. Ask for an offer in writing and keep written records of authorisations.

E-invoicing allows businesses to electronically exchange invoices directly between accounting software systems via the secure Peppol network. This creates a safer and more effective way to manage invoices and bills because it doesn’t rely on email. E-invoicing may just be the tool that could give you peace of mind in your business.

How we can help

Remaining vigilant and aware of the current scams is a great start, but it can be really stressful when your business or personal data is compromised. If you’ve fallen victim to a scam, our team of financial experts can help you get back on your feet and set processes in place to better protect you and your business. Get in touch with us to get started.

1  Australian Cyber Security Centre, ASCC Annual Cyber Threat Report 2021-21
Westpac, Westpac encourages Australians to be alert as scam activity peaks during COVID-19
3  Channel 9, Up to 15 million Australians sent scam text message as cybercriminals pounce on COVID-19
4  Xero, Nearly one in five Australian small businesses a victim of invoice fraud