Tax season is upon us. While many eagerly await tax refunds, few will remain vigilant of the fraudsters looking to steal money and information from unsuspecting taxpayers. Tax season is the prime opportunity for identity thieves to approach victims with legitimate looking SMS and emails regarding their tax refunds and returns.

The most common forms of tax scams appear as SMS scams (smishing), phone scams (vishing), and email scams (phishing). So, how is it possible to identify and avoid tax scams?

A victim may be contacted with a “spoofed” email that looks like it came from SARS, however, it is a fake email aimed at getting you to part with your personal information, such as eFiling account details, banking information, or other personally identifiable information. An example could include an email that appears to be from “[email protected]”, or “[email protected]”. They will more than likely state that the receiver of the mail is eligible to receive tax refunds, followed by a link to fake forms and websites that are made to look like the real thing. Additionally, the scammer may ask the victim to cover an administration fee before they can claim the amount owed to them.

The first thing to remember is that SARS will never request your banking information through communications via post, SMS, or email. For the purposes of telephonic engagement and authentication purposes, SARS will verify your personal details for you.

Always beware of any form of communication that comes from an unknown sender. Be extra wary of emails that ask for personal, tax, banking and eFiling details, such as login credentials, passwords, pins, and credit/debit card details.

If you are unsure of the legitimacy of the sender, you can verify the identity of the contact by calling the relevant organisation or department directly. You can do this by finding them through an online search or a phone book. Do not use the contact details provided to you by the unknown sender. 

Always avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for upfront payment via electronic currency, international funds transfer, pre-loaded gift cards, or wire transfer. It is much more difficult to recover money sent this way.

For a list of example scams that SARS is aware of, visit the SARS website. Should you suspect that you’ve encountered a tax scam, you should report any suspicious activity or communication to SARS Fraud and Anti-Corruption Hotline on 0800-00-2870.