In late August 2020, a large credit bureau in South Africa was the target of a data breach where millions of private individual and company data records were compromised. This data leakage, coupled with the tax filing season, makes for the perfect opportunity for taxpayers’ information to be abused, subjecting taxpayers to potential financial loss.
Scammers thrive on the inherent vulnerability of taxpayers during the tax season and know how to capitalise on the taxpayers’ struggles in dealing with SARS and their fear of the tax process. In Augusts 2020 alone, many correspondence scams that contain links to phishing websites have already been identified:
- SARS eFiling a statement of account has been issued – 19 August 2020
- Correspondence for your attention – 17 August 2020
- Audit SMS – 13 August 2020
- Online funds redemption – 11 August 2020
- Credit Acknowledgement – 7 August 2020
Fraudsters are also capitalising on the filing season by posing as tax practitioners to obtain sensitive information, including banking details. Remember that any tax practitioner who charges you for their services, must by be registered with a regulated controlling body. (You can easily verify your practitioner’s details here: https://secure.sarsefiling.co.za/TaxPractitionerQuery.aspx).
SARS provides the following guidelines when dealing with correspondence that purports to be from them:
- Do not open or respond to emails from unknown sources;
- Beware of emails that ask for personal, tax, banking, and eFiling details (login credentials, passwords, pins, credit/debit card information, etc.);
- SARS will never request your banking details in any communication that you receive via post, email, or SMS. However, for telephonic engagement and authentication purposes, SARS will verify your information. Importantly, SARS will not send you any hyperlinks to other websites – even those of banks;
- Beware of false SMSes;
- SARS does not send *.htm or *.html attachments;
- SARS will never ask for your credit card details.
SARS has also made a facility available where scams or phishing can be reported. Taxpayers can either email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Hotline on 0800 00 2870.
All taxpayers are urged to remain vigilant this filing season and ensure that their data is protected.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)