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ATO Cut Off Taxes Program Phishing Scam Email

Outline
Email, purporting to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) claims that the recipient may be eligible for a 19% refund on 2009 taxes if he or she registers online for the Cut Off Taxes Program.



Brief Analysis
This email is not from the ATO. It is a phishing scam designed to steal sensitive personal information. Those who fall for the ruse and click the "Register" link will be taken to a fake ATO website where they will be asked to provide personal and financial details. These details can then be collected by scammers and used for fraud and identity theft.

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Detailed analysis and references below example.



Last updated: 9th February 2010
First published: 9th February 2010
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Examples:
Subject: Notification - The Cut Off Taxes Program !

The Cut Off Taxes Program


The Cut Off Taxes Program (COTP)
If you want, from 01.15.2009 you can register for the The Cut Off Taxes Program (COTP). This means you could get 19% back from all your 2009 taxes.

Remember to keep your receipt.

They will help you calculate your refund and you may be required to show them as proof of purchase.

Get register Now

* Online Tax Refund is so secure guarantee we'll cover any losses it there`s ever any unauthorized use of your account . In fact , we even guarantee that every payer will be paid on time or we will cover late fees Payments are guaranteed as long as all payment information is entered correctly.




Detailed Analysis
This email, which claims to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), informs the recipient that he or she could get 19% refund on taxes payed in 2009 if he or she registers for the "Cut Off Taxes Program". The recipient is invited to register for the program via a link in the email.

However, the email is not from the ATO and the promised refund and program are just the bait used to entice victims into providing their information to Internet criminals. Those who follow the link in the message will be taken to a bogus tax webpage that will ask them to provide details such as tax file numbers, credit card and bank account numbers and other personal information, ostensibly as part of the process of registering for the "Cut Off Taxes Program". While the bogus website might closely resemble the genuine ATO, in reality it has no connection whatsoever with the ATO and any information provided on the website can be easily retrieved by Internet scammers.

The ATO has published information on its website warning taxpayers about such scams. The warning notes that the tax office will never send emails asking people to provide personal information.

In order to make their bogus messages seem more legitimate, the scammers include ATO logos that have no doubt been stolen from the genuine ATO website. They also use email addresses and links that are disguised to make the messages seem more genuine. Such scam emails are often characterized by poor or unusual spelling and grammar.

Other versions of the scam lure Australian tax payers into divulging their details by claiming that they can quickly apply for an unexpected tax refund by submit a refund request online.

In fact, phishing scammers have repeatedly used the promise of unexpected tax refunds to trick victims into supplying information. In recent years, very similar scams have targeted people living in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada as well as Australia.

Tax-payers should be extremely cautious of any unsolicited email that purports to be from a Government tax office and claims that they can receive a tax refund by supplying personal information on a website. No legitimate tax office is ever likely to contact clients about a refund in this manner. If you receive such an email, do not click on any links in the message or open any attachments that it may carry. Do not reply to the email.

For more information about phishing scams, see:
Phishing Scams - Anti-Phishing Information



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References:
Australian Tax Refund Scam Email
Warning: 30% tax discount email scam
ATO - Examples of scams
Warnings issued over bogus Australian Tax Office email phishing scam

Last updated: 9th February 2010
First published: 9th February 2010
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer