With Government restrictions forcing many Australians to continue working from home, we’ve seen an increase in the sophistication of scams and fraudulent invoicing. Here’s a few scamming trends to be on the lookout for and how you can protect both your business and personal information from falling prey.

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.

Popular scams from 2021 include fake tax debt, updates to your financial information (ie; details on myGov), paying bills through alternative payment methods and suspensions to your tax file number (TFN). The majority of 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 supplier’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.
Phone scams

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

In mid-late 2021, a popular phone scam was a new payment methods scam which was introduced, 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, and never a random number or a number from another country. 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.

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.

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.

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