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Scammers just love the tax man

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Scammers like nothing more than to take advantage of a seasonal event – like tax season, writes Sarel Lamprecht, MD of cyber-insurance company Phishield.
As the tax season draws to a close and people urgently await their refunds, scammers will come out of the woodwork and try to rip off unsuspecting consumers. So far, more than 4-million returns have been submitted to the South African Revenue Service, of which 1,4-million have been submitted via e-filing.
SARS is on record as saying that 91,7% of all refunds are being assessed within three seconds.
The tax man has also said that 97,6% of returns are assessed in 24 hours, and 94,3% of refunds are being paid out within 72 hours.
However, just because the bulk of returns have been submitted and sorted out, does not mean that scammers are not out there, waiting to take advantage of unsuspecting people or staff. In fact, the chances of a scammer catching someone unawares is heightened when people are still waiting for a payout, and haven’t realised that their return could have been flagged and the tax man needs more documents.
SARS itself has recognised the danger of scammers – especially with a junior employee or someone who is new to the concept of filing tax. That’s why it has instituted a series of procedures to cut down on fraud. This includes SARS warning tax payers to watch out for phishing scams, through which criminals try to gain access to their banking details by sending emails that purport to be from SARS.
The tax man has also alerted people to the fact that it will never ask for personal, tax banking or e-filing details – such as passwords or other login information – on the phone or via an email. It will also never include a link in an email for e-filing. Instead, it tells people to manually type in the address.
Even if you use someone to help you file, you still need to make sure that you protect your information. If someone else gains access to your tax profile, they can dig out how much you earn, where you live, and your bank account details. This can lead to all sorts of fraud being perpetuated on your account.
What will be worse, however, is if someone expecting a tax return clicks on a link and unwittingly hands over access to your accounts. This can lead to financial ruin for companies and individuals.
Thankfully, cyber insurance is there to protect you from breaches. Cyber insurance will cover your losses, help companies deal with reputational damage and find the weakest link so it can be plugged.
In this day and age, no one can afford to be without it.