In late August 2020, a large credit bureau in South Africa was the target of a data breach and millions of private data records of individuals and companies were compromised. Such data leakages, coupled with the tax filing season, makes for the perfect opportunity for taxpayer information to be abused and can result in potential financial loss. Scammers thrive on the inherent vulnerability of taxpayers in dealing with SARS and the fear of the tax process – and they know how to capitalise thereon.
In August 2020 alone the following scams have been identified, where correspondences contained links to phishing websites:
- 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
Many fraudsters are also capitalising on the filing season and pose as tax practitioners to obtain sensitive information, including banking details. Remember that all tax practitioners who charge you for their services must be registered with a regulated controlling body. (You can 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, )
- 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 – ensure that your data is protected.