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  • (01. January 2010., 10:27:49)

Author Topic: Net scammers step up attacks on taxpayers (ATO - $9500 tax refund)  (Read 2898 times)

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INTERNET scammers have stepped up their attacks on the personal details of Australian taxpayers, with the tax office reporting a 31 per cent increase in cyber security incidents.

Identity fraud, fake websites, bogus text messages and "phishing" are among the most common rorts identified by the Australian Tax Office.

The revelations are contained in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into cyber crime.

The tax office reported a 31 per increase in eSecurity incidents between 2007-2008. "The greatest cyber crime vulnerability that the tax office faces is loss of revenue or information through identity fraud," the ATO said.

"In addition to the harm caused to the person whose identity is stolen, it can lead to a loss of confidence in the tax system which has major ramifications for the Australian community." The ATO said scammers had also circulated fake tax refund emails, potentially costing the commonwealth money through forgone revenues.

Most of the scams detected by the ATO involved some type of "phishing" in which scammers try to trick people into giving them confidential information.

Some of the scams cited included a fake website that mirrored the ATO's and offered a $9500 tax refund, and an internet-generated cold-calling scam that directed victims to phone a number and asked them to hand over personal information. Scammers also contacted victims via text message.

In one week alone, the ATO identified eight variations of a refund scam designed to coincide with the end of the financial year.

According to the tax office, more than 90 per cent of tax returns are lodged electronically, making the office vulnerable to internet fraudsters and cyber attack. However, it said there was "minimal evidence" that criminals had infiltrated the ATO's internal IT systems.

In the past year, the ATO has finalised 35 prosecutions for fraud, 29 of which resulted in jail terms. It said scammers were exploiting the proliferation of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace to ensnare victims.

The use of Skype-style voice-over-internet protocols was also on the rise, the tax office said, as well as malicious software or virus attacks.

Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry said the government's submission highlighted the risk cyber crime posed to the public and to the commonwealth. "Identity fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world, with thieves using your bank accounts and credit card details to steal from you or to commit other crimes in your name," Senator Sherry said. In one recent case a server lured victims with a website "that looked identical to the ATO website".


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