Warning over phishing scam tormenting South African taxpayers

The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has warned of a new scam targeting taxpayers who use the eFiling system.

The scam, sent via email, includes a spoofed Sars logo and similar formatting to Sars’ notices. It warns taxpayers they will be unable to file their 2024 return until they pay an outstanding amount.

It includes account numbers to which the outstanding amount must be paid.

Sars notified the public of the scam, warning it not to fall for the phishing campaign.

“Sars never provides bank account numbers. If you need to make a payment, only use the official Sars payment channels,” it said.

Speaking to 702, Van Huyssteens Commercial Attorneys tax director Jean-Louis Nel said Sars has shared more than ten warnings of phishing attempts in the past six months.

“It appears that it’s becoming a more common problem in relation to VAT refunds in particular, where tax practitioners have in excess of ten company profiles where this actually emanates,” he said.

While phishing scams surrounding Sars eFiling are widespread, Nel says it isn’t extraordinary.

“It’s very similar to what is happening to attorneys with respect to conveyancing matters, where there’s phishing and deposits for property transfers are also paid to scamsters… and it’s similar to internet banking phishing scams,” he said.

However, he noted that the amount of money paid into scammers’ bank accounts has significant knock-on effects on the fiscus.

He said the commissioner published stats revealing that Sars had blocked R110 billion worth of fraudulent refunds in the past year.

“It’s a significant amount of money if one considers what the budget deficit was in the previous financial year,” added Nel.

He also advised the public on how to protect themselves from Sars-related scams. Nel said Sars will never request any documents from you via email or SMS.

Sars posted a copy of the scam notice to its scams page.

If Sars does issue a notification on your profile, you’ll ordinarily receive an SMS telling you to log onto eFiling.

However, he believes many South Africans are more afraid of Sars than they are of other authorities like the South African Police Service.

“When they do receive correspondence from an entity or person purporting to be Sars, they usually act and they click on links or open email attachments and provide their particulars,” said Nel.

He added that it’s too late once people provide their eFiling profile details.

“You can’t do anything, you have to go to Sars then,” added Nel.

Sars recommends steps for taxpayers to protect themselves from these kinds of scams. They should be aware of the following:

  • Don’t open or respond to emails from unknown sources.
  • Be sceptical of emails that ask for personal, tax, banking, or eFiling details.
  • Sars will never request banking details in any communication sent via post, email, or SMS.
  • However, Sars will verify personal details during telephonic engagement and authentication.
  • Sars will never send taxpayers any hyperlinks to other websites, even banking platforms.

It also noted that it would never send “.htm” or “.html” attachments or ask for a taxpayer’s credit card details.

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Warning over phishing scam tormenting South African taxpayers