Scams Run High During Tax Time: Cyber Security Expert Warns New Zealanders Of Common Fraudster Tactics
Ahead of tax season, Avast, a leading digital security and privacy brand of Gen™ (NASDAQ: GEN), is warning New Zealanders of increased scam activity as cybercriminals prey on taxpayers' vulnerability during a time when they are expecting their tax returns. Netsafe, New Zealand’s independent, non-profit online safety organisation, reports scams year-round, and sees spikes between March and July, when an old tax year ends, and a new begins, and when individual tax refunds become available.
As we come to the end of another financial year, people across the country are preparing to receive their tax returns. For many, this cash payment will be helpful to families as the cost of living crisis continues. For cybercriminals, this presents a window of opportunity to prey on the hope of a high tax return for their own gain. Fraudsters, often posing as a person or institution that is familiar to the victim, will use this hope to manipulate them into handing over sensitive information or money – causing potential significant financial and personal harm.
Stephen Kho, cyber security expert for Avast says, “as we come into the next tax season off the back of a record high year for scams, it is more important than ever to educate yourself on the warning signs. With some knowledge and caution, you can better identify criminal activity and save yourself from falling victim.”
“Scammers know that New Zealanders expect their tax return at this time of year and many families are looking forward to this cash boost. Cybercriminals take advantage of people’s hope for a high tax return by using scare tactics making them believe a tax payment is overdue and needs to be paid in order to receive their return. Another tactic is sending an email requiring confirmation and further details to finalise the refund process.”
Stephen has shared three examples of prevalent ways scammers engage at tax time, and the ways you can avoid falling victim to one yourself.
1. Phishing emails
Phishing emails are a common way for scammers to try to steal your personal and financial information. These emails may appear to be from Inland Revenue or other reputable organisations requiring more information to process the tax return or pretending to offer a tax return you need to claim. They often contain links or attachments that, if clicked, could download malware onto your computer.
How to avoid this scam:
To avoid falling victim to this type of scam, never click on links or download attachments from emails that you weren't expecting and be especially wary of emails that ask for personal or financial information. It is also best practice to check the address the email is sent from and if you are ever unsure, log in to your Inland Revenue account and look at the notifications.
2. Fake Phone calls
Another common Inland Revenue scam involves fake phone calls from people claiming to be tax agents. These scammers may tell you that they are processing your tax refund, inflating how much your return will be, and state you owe back taxes and that you need to pay them immediately, often through a wire transfer or prepaid debit card. They may also threaten you and deny you your tax return unless you make payment.
How to avoid this scam:
Reputable organisations including Inland Revenue will never call you out of the blue to demand immediate payment or threaten you. If you receive a call like this, hang up and report it to Netsafe.
3. Impersonations of charitable organisations
Since many people donate to charitable organisations around tax time, scammers will often pretend to be calling you from a charitable organisation. They ask for donations in the name of a fake charity, or they set up fake websites that look like legitimate charities.
How to avoid this scam:
To avoid this scam, do your research before donating to a charity, and be wary of charities that don't provide detailed information about their mission and how they use donations.
Avast is a leader in digital security and privacy, and a brand of Gen™ (NASDAQ: GEN), a global company dedicated to powering Digital Freedom through a family of trusted consumer brands. Avast protects hundreds of millions of users from online threats with a threat detection network that is among the most advanced in the world, using machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies to detect and stop threats in real time. Avast digital security products for Mobile, PC or Mac are top-ranked and certified by VB100, AV-Comparatives, AV-Test, SE Labs, and others. Avast is a member of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, No More Ransom and Internet Watch Foundation. Visit: www.avast.com.
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