The ATO is reminding Australians to protect themselves against identify theft this tax time.
Assistant Commissioner Graham Whyte said identity theft was more common during tax time because of the large number of people lodging tax returns.
“With the amount of personal information being exchanged at tax time, it is a prime opportunity for fraudsters,” Mr Whyte said.
“Highly organised crime networks use a range of methods to steal personal information in order to commit refund fraud.”
In 2014-15, 32,110 cases of identity theft were reported to the ATO. Of these, 22,200 were reported during the peak processing months from July to November.
Over the same period, 677 incidents of identity crime relating to refund fraud were dealt with by the ATO.
Mr Whyte said there are a number of ways Australians can protect themselves against identity theft and refund fraud. It can be as easy as putting a padlock on your letter box or ensuring you have the latest software and security updates on your computer.
“My number one tip is to protect your tax file number by deleting or destroying any record of it from documents before throwing them away. When you contact us or submit a form, we use your TFN to identify you. Fraudsters try to steal TFNs and other personal information so that they can lodge tax returns and other tax forms.
“And just like you would with online banking, you should never share your passwords with anyone and ensure you change them regularly,” Mr Whyte said.
“Although there are a few things you can do to protect your own identity, you can also be confident that we’re doing everything within our power to keep your personal details safe and secure.
Mr Whyte said where the ATO uncovers fraudulent activity; it works with law enforcement and other agencies to take action.
Tips for protecting your identity
The ATO recommends following a few easy steps to protect yourself against identity theft:
- Put a padlock on your letterbox
- Shred documents containing personal details before throwing them away.
- Make sure passwords are strong. Use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.
- Use legitimate and up-to-date antivirus, firewall and anti-spyware software
Reporting a lost TFN
You should report the loss or theft of your TFN without delay, if you:
- Can’t find your TFN and do not suspect misuse. Phone 13 28 61 between 8.00am and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday and 10:00am to 4:00pm Saturday. You can also phone Sunday between 10.00am to 4.00pm from 1 July to 31 October.
- Think your TFN has been stolen or misused. Phone the ATO on 1800 467 033 between 8.00am and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday.