Tax season: 7 ways to protect yourself from cybercrime attacks

Tax season is upon us and while many are eager to file their tax returns and received their refunds, it's also a time in which taxpayers should be alert, as cyber criminals are waiting to attack.

Tax season 2019 officially started on Monday, July 1 for taxpayers who use the updated digital channels, such as eFiling and the SA Revenue Service MobiApp. 

According to ESET South Africa CEO Carey Van Vlaanderen, cyber criminals have become smarter and more convincing in their phishing attacks.

''While we have become wiser to email spams and scams, cyber criminals are in a perfect position to 'fine-tune' their attacks. If one doesn't work, they simply adapt, improve and spam it out again, '' said Van Vlaanderen.

To help you protect yourself against such attacks, Van Vlaanderen shares seven tips:

1. Think you’re being phished? Look at the bait - Check who the email is from. Phishers may use a random email address that gives the game away. Does the address make sense? If any alarm bells start to ring, don’t click. 

2. Think hard before opening an attachment - To a cyber criminal, nothing is sacred, said Van Vlaanderen. Wedding invitations, invoices and tax returns are all commonly used tactics. If you find the attachment suspicious, don't open it!

3. Be careful of short URLs - You cannot take for granted that URL shortening services are redirecting you to trustworthy websites.

4. Telephone numbers don't guarantee the validity of the email - The number may work, but you will be connected to a scammer instead of the company you’re hoping to speak to – and they will attempt to fool you into handing over further details. 

5. Don't auto-load images -  Set your email messages so your images aren’t automatically downloaded. By turning on pictures in an email, your computer downloads the images from the spammer’s servers, showing that you exist.  

6. Is SARS really calling? - Its doubtful SARS will be calling you. If you get weird emails or phone calls, ignore them or hang up.

7. Encryption is the only way to go - If you file online, look for encrypted websites. Ensure that the website you visit has HTTPS in front of the URL. It will typically have a green lock indicating that its a secure connection.

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