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Australian Taxation Office issues warning on JobKeeper phone scam

The Australian Taxation Office has raised an alert about a phone scam aimed at business owners and employees asking for bank details to process JobKeeper payments.

In the scam, the caller pretends to be part of the person’s organisation and asks for banking information to organise a wage subsidy payments.

The ATO has identified the scam on its website and on social media and reminded Australians that only email and SMS is used to communicate with JobKeeper recipients.

On its website the ATO said: “We’re receiving reports of scammers pretending to be from the ATO calling members of the public and asking them to provide their bank account details.

“They are telling them that their employer has registered them for the JobKeeper Payment, but that the ATO needs their bank account details to deposit the funds into their account.

“Do not provide the information requested. Employees that are eligible for JobKeeper payments will be paid by their employer and the ATO will reimburse their employer for these payments.

“The ATO does not need the bank account details of individual employees.

“If you are not sure whether an ATO call is legitimate, hang up and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check.”

The ATO says its emails and SMS messages are to let people know they have a message in their secure MyGov inbox and they will never contain a link.

Jacqueline Jayne, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4, says Australians and employers can protect themselves from these scams.

“Cybercriminals are relentless.  They see Covid19 as an opportunity to take advantage of human nature to entrap unsuspecting people,” she said.

“The ATO has made it clear that they have and will continue to send an SMS or an email to their customers and that they will NEVER include a link or ask you to reply.

“Unfortunately, human nature tends to ignore notifications like this.  People in financial difficulties as a result of the Covid19 pandemic are more likely to engage with any form of communication when it comes to getting their JobKeeper payment as they need the money.

“Their critical thinking or usual thought process used has been temporarily hijacked.  Cybercriminals are counting on it because they know people in these situations will fall for their tricks.”

Jayne says cybercriminal scams and their efforts to access them have become even more  sophisticated.

“We can only hope that the silver lining here is more non-cybersecurity savvy people will start to increase their suspicions when it comes to SMSs, voicemails, emails and phone scammers.

“If you are part of an organisation you have a duty of care to ensure your people receive relevant, engaging and timely education when it comes to cybersecurity.

“This will support them to make better decisions when it comes to cybersecurity. The bonus is that they can then help those around them to do the same.”

If you are unsure if an ATO call is real, hang up and call 1800 008 540 to make sure.