MEDIA RELEASE: With scammers taking advantage of COVID-19 uncertainty, business owners should be wary if contacted by third-parties claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office, according to HLB Mann Judd Sydney managing partner, Tony Fittler.
Mr Fittler said HLB Mann Judd has seen a stark increase in the number of clients contacting the firm with concerns about possible cold calling from scammers. In addition, he said clients’ internal operations have been impacted, with phishing attempts on staff through malicious attachments and attempts to obtain or crack passwords.
“We’re regularly getting calls from clients who’ve had strange requests, supposedly from the ATO, and the nature of the calls is getting more sophisticated.
“Scammers are clever with ATO calls in particular with the tax agents number appearing to confirm the legitimacy of the call, which is of concern to many in the profession,” he said.
Mr Fittler urged business owners to carefully monitor and record this engagement, and report the contact to the relevant authorities.
“Unfortunately, the increase in scamming activity comes at a time when business confidence is down and there is still so much lingering uncertainty due to the impact of COVID-19. It’s an emotional time for many business owners who are already struggling to keep things afloat; the last thing they need is to unknowingly hand over sensitive financial information to someone purporting to be from the ATO,” he said.
According to recent ATO statistics, there were 5,118 ATO impersonation scams reported during July, with a total of $172,540 being paid to scammers during this period, and 352 ATO clients providing scammers with sensitive personal identifying information.
“The advice to business owners is to be alert and aware that this sort of activity is happening, and while it can often appear logical and warranted, it’s better to question the contact than not,” said Mr Fittler.
Additional IT security measures need to considered by businesses in a post-COVID-19 environment, particularly given the proportion of employees now working from home as a matter of course.
Areas of consideration include resetting security systems, protecting remote devices, and regularly updating and educating staff on how to identify and manage possible phishing scams.