Fraudulent phishing emails claiming to be issued by tax authorities or other government bodies have been in existence for some years. They are still as, if not more, popular with scammers.
Fraudulent emails can be received at any time of the year, but it is during the periods leading up to busy taxation periods that they become more prevalent as many businesses are thinking about their tax affairs.
- If you are a taxpayer or have other business with the tax authorities, you may receive a phishing email requesting confidential information which would grant criminals access to your bank or payment card accounts.
- Alternatively, the email may include an attachment disguised as a genuine document, but which actually introduces a virus which can be used to defraud you, steal your identity, spy on you or hold you to financial ransom.
- Another risk is that of being coaxed into using an unofficial service instead of the official website, of the type which normally charge elevated and often exorbitant fees for services provided free or at a lower cost by the government. These are generally known as copycat websites.
Protecting your business
- Remember that government organisations will never inform you about a tax rebate or penalty – or request personal payment information details – by email, text or social networking post.
- Beware of emails which:
- Have a sender’s email address which is different from the offiical organisation’s website address.
- Are sent from a completely different address or a free webmail address.
- Do not use your proper name, but a non-specific greeting such as “Dear customer”, "Dear Business Owner", “Dear Taxpayer” or no greeting at all.
- Incorporate a sense of urgency; for example the threat that unless you act immediately your account may be closed or you may miss a payment or refund claim deadline.
- Request confidential business or employee information such as username, password or bank details.
- Be cautious with emails that contain attachments. If in any doubt, do not click on the attachment and delete the email, do not respond and do not forward it unless to report it to the authentic organisation.
- Be on the lookout for copycat websites, which may well charge a high fee for a service which would be free, or at lower cost, from the official government site. These sites will cost your business unnecessary money and possibly not even deliver any service at all, despite being featured prominently on Google and other search engines.
If you think you have been a victim of fraud:
Report it to the police