During South Africa’s tax season, cyber criminals posing as SARS representatives perform phishing attacks by sending fake refund advice to potential victims and then take the tax refund themselves.
These phishing attacks are emails from scammers pretending to be from SARS, which lead you to infected websites or try and lure you into opening infected attachments.
Scammers may also fill in your taxes for you and try to get your refund, says Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO of ESET Southern Africa.
She said such phishing emails and text messages will have incorrectly spelled words and will often ask you to open an attachment.
The attachment will likely infect your computer with malware that could make your computer a part of a botnet used for denial of service attacks or spamming, or it could steal your credentials which will be sold on the black market.
Security software is essential
Criminals send phishing emails because they work. People may be unaware of these types of scams or so eager to get their tax refund that they ignore their better judgement.
Many people also don’t use good anti-virus, anti-spam, and anti-phishing software. Products like ESET Smart Security offer all three of these rolled into one.
Using security software stops these types of attacks at multiple levels:
- Blocking emails known to be fraudulent
- Blocking links in emails to web pages that are known to be infected
- Blocking the downloading of attachments containing malware
- Blocking the execution of malware that has been downloaded
The best way to file your taxes is to use a reputable tax consultant, preferably one referred by a trusted friend who has used them in the past. Although even this is no guarantee that you won’t become a tax identity theft victim.
The dangers of online tax fraud
There are some “hotspots” in online tax fraud, notably the opening weeks of filing season when scammers can submit returns with fake information.
However, the fact that businesses and professionals pay taxes throughout the year in the form of estimated payments makes tax identity fraud a profitable year-round criminal endeavour.
Being a victim of identity theft tax fraud could take a long time to resolve and SARS might expect you to return money it paid out in your name to a scam artist, said ESET.
Remember: if you fall for these scams, you will still have to pay SARS, regardless of any bad advice you received.
This article was published in partnership with ESET.