TAX file numbers are being stolen in record numbers and used by criminals to access personal bank accounts, superannuation funds and apply for government benefits.
Official figures reveal the practice has almost doubled in the past year as frauds successfully target the numbers to steal people’s identity – potentially draining the real person’s bank account, racking up debt and ruining credit records for years.
In the past financial year, the number of stolen tax file numbers suspected of use in identity fraud topped 31,200 – from 12,669 the previous year.
According to the ATO, scammers target people with a “low level of knowledge about technology”.
The following article was published on 22 November 2010:
YOUR tax file number can be the key to protecting your identity and therefore your personal finances against theft and fraudulent behaviour, so guard it with your life
Fraudsters are targeting people’s tax file numbers in an effort to steal their money and often their identity.
Fake employment ads, cold-calling scams and trawling through your rubbish bin are among the ways criminals seize your personal information.
The Australian Taxation Office says in the 2009-10 financial year, it dealt with 8400 cases of “compromised tax file numbers”.
“During (that) period, some 7000 TFNs were potentially impacted by identity crime,” an ATO spokeswoman says.
“The community is becoming more aware of fraud and identity crime, and therefore the instance of identity crime reported is rising.
“Additionally, the methods being employed to commit identity-related crimes are increasing in complexity.”
Employment scams can appear as job ads, emails or noticeboards and exist only to get your personal information.
The ATO says warning signs include a job that seems to good to be true, guaranteed income, claiming you can make big money using your computer and asking you to supply personal information such as your address or tax file number.
“Only certain people are entitled to ask for your TFN, including the Australian Taxation Office, Centrelink, your superannuation fund, bank or financial institution and your employer but only after you have started working for them.
Fraudsters eye tax file numbers “Your TFN should never be used to confirm your identity with other organisations,” the ATO spokeswoman says.
Unlike PINs and bank account numbers, people usually have the same tax file number their entire lives.
Steven Toth, a partner at HLB Mann Judd chartered accountants, says people should be wary of anyone who asks for their tax file number or other personal information.
He says old documents containing TFNs should be shredded, not just thrown in the bin.
“When we provide copies of tax returns to a client’s lender, we provide them without the tax file number,” Toth says.
“Only give those details to reliable sources.”
The ATO says anyone worried their TFN has been lost, stolen or misused should ring the ATO on 1800 060 062.
“If your identity is stolen it can take years to put everything right,” the ATO spokeswoman says.
“You could face financial problems if someone commits fraud or other crimes using your identity. You may also have problems getting a job, a loan, renting a house or a car, or applying for government services or benefits.”