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How to safely submit your tax return online

A burglar opening a safe that is a computer screen

It’s that dreaded time of year again: Tax return time. A tax return can be a mind-numbing, tedious task, trying to fill out all those forms, or an expensive one if you pay an accountant to do it for you. However, thanks to the Internet there’s a quicker and cheaper way to submit your tax return. The Australian Tax Office (ATO) offers an e-tax service which allows you to submit online and save yourself at least some of your sanity.

Unfortunately filling out the forms isn’t the only painful part of tax time, and submitting your tax return online may have its own problems.

There are a few risks and issues that can arise from poor cyber security when you submit online. Because you can never be too careful with your personal and financial details, we’ve put together an online safety guide to help you submit your tax return online without any dramas. So save yourself extra headaches at tax time by following our tips.

Get equipped

The best place to start shielding your computer from danger is getting it kitted out with all the safety features:

  • Install an anti-malware product, and ensure the virus definitions are up-to-date. This will be able to scan for any malicious software hiding on your PC or device and eradicate it.
  • Keep your PC protected and up to date by switching on your firewall and setting your software and operating system updates to ‘automatic’.

Say “scram!” to scammers

Sometimes it feels like there’s someone waiting around every corner to con you, especially on the Internet. That’s why you have to be street smart; or in this case, cyber smart.

Tax time is like Christmas for some of the more morally corrupt members of society. These swindlers will send out fraudulent emails, claiming to be the ATO or another financial institution. But there are ways you can avoid being hustled:

  • Always delete emails from an unknown source. Don’t open them and don’t download any attachments.
  • In no circumstances would the ATO request personal details or money via email, so never reply to an email that asks for these details. If in doubt, give the ATO a call and ask them about the email.
  • Ignore fake texts, calls or letters claiming to be for the ATO. Again, if you’re unsure if you’re actually being contacted by the ATO, hang up and call the official ATO phone number to confirm.
  • Check out the official ATO website for any updates about scams that are going around.

Keep it secret

It would be great if we lived in a perfect world but unfortunately that just isn’t reality. Sadly, there are just too many people who, if given the opportunity, could take advantage of you online. That’s why you must always be mindful when you are entering your financial details online, and keep your details hidden from wandering eyes. There are several ways you can do this:

  • Internet cafes and open areas with shared internet connections are great for gaming and checking emails while traveling, but not for doing your personal finances. In such an open and public environment, you can’t be sure that someone isn’t sneaking a peep over your shoulder while you’re typing sensitive information. Not only that, they may be able to retrieve your details after you’ve finished using the computer.
  • Remember to log out of any online banking, e-tax accounts or e-mail boxes. If you want to be extra careful, you can also clear your browsing history.
  • Social networking sites already broadcast a lot of your personal information, but you should at least aim to keep your tax file number, banking info and home address private or better yet – don’t mention them at all.

I hope you get through tax time with your mind and bank account intact. Maybe you’ll even get a lovely return to spend during the end of financial year sales!

Heard of a tax scam? Do you have any extra tips for keeping safe online? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1L9YVLZ

3 comments

  1. Longstocking says:

    Great article and very timely but a few updates. The ATO now has an even faster and simpler online return called myTax. Launched last year it was very popular and this year even more people are eligible to use it. Also the scams page has moved and can now be found at: https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Online-services/In-detail/Online-security/How-to-verify-or-report-a-scam/

  2. Rex Woodmore says:

    I am an artist selling my work online. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get someone trying to scam me. I like to think I am careful, or am I paranoid? I had to double check to make sure this was a genuine Westnet message.
    Rex Woodmore

  3. Heather Stone says:

    I use a MacBook pro and iPad, is it still necessary to install anti malware etc for mac. I have been told anti virus software etc is not needed as mac security is good.

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