Education and awareness around identity theft, phishing and other frauds have become part of life globally. If nothing else, scamsters are innovative and keep trying new avenues of defrauding businesses and individuals. In South Africa, this is no exception, and there has been a rise in the number of scams where persons pretend to be from the South African Revenue Service (SARS), to defraud honest taxpayers. This is a particularly useful method, since reactions to correspondence from revenue authorities are often quick and drives taxpayers into immediate action. Since June 2018, SARS has identified 15 new scams (in addition to a myriad of old scams still doing the rounds). Members of the public are randomly emailed with false “spoofed” emails made to look as if these emails were sent from SARS, but are actually fraudulent emails aimed at enticing unsuspecting taxpayers to part with personal information such as bank account details.
Some of the more pertinent scams recently have been:
- Payments required for “residential tax clearance certificates”. This is particularly relevant, with all the media reports around the so-called “expat tax” due to come into operation in March 2020;
- Receiving a “tax invoice” from SARS with a link that should be clicked on;
- Notifications of a refund, requiring taxpayers to complete bank account and credit card details;
- Letters of demand with threats of court summonses; and
- Requests for verification of assessments, with links to malware.
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, etc.);
- 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 SMSs;
- SARS does not send *.htm or *.html attachments; and
- 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.
It is advisable that taxpayers are always aware of the status of their tax affairs and are in constant contact with their tax consultants, to ensure that they are not caught unaware by any of the scams.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)