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Small businesses have been warned by key regulatory bodies to be on high alert for scammers aiming for financial and intangible gains during tax time.
The ACCC Targeting Scams report revealed that businesses lost an average of $10,000 per scam in 2016, with losses totalling around $3.8 million, an increase of almost 31 per cent.
ACCC deputy chair Michael Schaper said the single largest concern the regulator was contacted for was for scams, with the commission receiving more than 100,000 phone calls and emails from small businesses and members of the public.
“It’s quite a frightening figure when you think about just how small the profit margin is that most businesses are trading on,” Mr Schaper said.
“Micro businesses, small businesses are the most frequently targeted and it is a sobering figure.
“If you’re a small business and someone basically gets into your material and locks up all your software, your business can effectively be dead. It’s not just about the matter of paying your ransom and by the way, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever actually get your data back, but you’d lose basically everything – all the intangibles, your customer lists, your financial records.”
ATO acting deputy commissioner for small business Emma Rosenzweig said the increase of scammers during tax time has been well documented.
Ms Rosenzweig said the ATO would never threaten anyone with arrest; ask for money in order to get a refund; ask to be paid via iTunes vouchers, prepaid credit cards or store gift cards; ask for money to be paid to a personal bank account; or ask you to download files or attachments in unsolicited emails.
“We do know some people get genuine calls from the ATO and genuine contact that they are then nervous about so if you get a call from the ATO and you’re not sure, you’re very welcome to call us back on our switchboard and ask for that person directly … and they will then verify whether they are genuinely from the ATO,” Ms Rosenzweig said.
Mr Schaper said a good defence was to trust your gut, and back up data and store it offline in case of a ransomware attack.
“Scammers are quite entrepreneurial, dare I say. They are the dark side of entrepreneurship … and if it just doesn’t make sense and you’re not expecting this and there’s no reason, trust your gut, there probably is a scammer,” he said.