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How to protect yourself from cyber criminals at tax time

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It’s coming to the end of the financial year and while were busily preparing our tax returns, cyber criminals and scammers are warming up to trick you into handing over money or personal information.

Cons are common at tax time especially when it comes to online fraud.

Most of the work we need to complete our tax is now done online quickly and easily but it does come with some risks.

Scammers have been known to send suspicious communications seemingly from the Australian Taxation Office or Centrelink via email, SMS or with a phone call.

All of these approaches are designed to trick Australians to give up personal information and to take their money.

Internet security company Norton says more than 200,000 Australian small businesses were affected by cyber threats in 2017, according to its latest research.

In the last 12 months, cybercrime has cost Australian small and medium businesses an average of $10,299.

And the real worry is that one in three businesses who became victims of cybercrime thought they were a low risk of becoming a target.

While cybercrime looms as a threat, the practice of sensible and efficient online behaviour can keep you protected.

Norton Australia security expert Mark Gorrie has come up with 10 tax time tips to help businesses and customers protect themselves from online fraud during EOFY (end of financial year).

* Be cautious of emails, SMSs and phone calls claiming to be from the ATO (Australian Taxation Office)– the ATO uses a number of methods to contact you the one thing they’ll never do is ask you for your tax file number or bank details via email or SMS. And they will never contact you using social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. Another thing the ATO will never do over the phone is threaten taxpayers with jail time or ask for a tax debt to be loaded onto a prepaid card.

* If you’re not sure this about the communication you’re receiving from the ATO, call them directly.If someone calls claiming to be from the ATO ask for their name and phone number and then called the ATO to verify their identity and their request.

* Use Internet security software and updated regularly.Having updated software can protect your home and business network. It is the first line of defence to stop criminals trying to steal your personal information.

* Make sure your computer’s operating system is up-to-date.Having an updated OS means any exploitation risks and vulnerabilities have been patched.

* Look for signs that the email is fake.There are things to look for in emails to prove they are illegitimate including incorrect logos, improper grammar, not being addressed as the recipient by name, it is not sent from a legitimate ato.gov.au address and links that appear to lead to a government website. Hover your mouse over the link and you’ll find it does not lead to an ato.gov.au address.

* Know your tax situation.If you know you don’t have a debt to the ATO then you will know any communication claiming that you owe money is fake.

* Use a secure Wi-Fi network or a VPN.When it comes time to transmit your tax return, be sure your Internet connection is secure and not a publicly available network.

* Secure your printed records.It’s important to secure copies of your tax return in a safe place as well as shredding documents and tax notes you no longer need.

* Be wary of online offers.The old saying “if it’s too good to be true, it is” applies more than ever online. If you’re not expecting a tax refund from the ATO, then an email claiming you have a payment coming your way will be suspicious.

* Renew your security subscription.The end of the financial year is a good time to set an annual reminder to update your online security software and keep everything up-to-date. Security subscriptions are 100 per cent immediately deductible for small businesses.