SARS warns of new WhatsApp scam targeting taxpayers

The South African Revenue Services (SARS) has warned of an increase in scams that are targeting taxpayers’ personal information.

While this information can only be accessed using proven authentication methods, SARS said fraudsters are using a range of deceptive methods to get taxpayers to unwittingly provide them with personal information which is used to defraud the taxpayer and SARS.

“The fraudsters may also use your personal information in such a way that can result in you having increased tax liabilities to SARS and you can even become the subject of a criminal investigation,” it said.

“You have to be vigilant at all times and protect your personal information from falling into the hands of fraudsters.”

An unusual message through WhatsApp 

SARS noted that fraudsters will use several different ways to contact you, depending on what information they already have about you, but are increasingly contacting taxpayers directly through messaging services such as WhatsApp.

“The person making contact with you may claim to be working at SARS – using the name of a person who does work at SARS – and will indicate that they are contacting you on behalf of SARS.

“Always be cautious when you receive a call from a person claiming to be from SARS offering to assist with your tax returns, to help you get a tax refund, or wants your personal and/or business information.

“WhatsApp and similar messages and SMSs may contain links which [the scammers encourage you] to click on. These links may contain trojans [malware] which fraudsters will use to gain access to your device to steal personal information from you.”

The revenue collector also cautioned against emails that appear to come from SARS, and even have identifying marks such as the SARS logo.

“Emails may ask you to contact a particular person whose details may be included and/or it can contain links which you are asked to click on to open. These links can be marked as ‘Outstanding Debt’, ‘Final Demand’ or anything which will compel you to click on the link and may also contain trojans to gain illegal access to your device.

“Fraudsters may also send you adverts of their ‘tax-related services’ to your phone using SMS or messaging services and/or via email. They also advertise their services on social media platforms such as Facebook. The adverts may also have SARS identifying marks and even fictitious or real company names and addresses.”

SARS noted that the rates charged for services are either very low or may be based on a percentage of refunds obtained. These rates are often outside the range charged by legitimate tax practitioners.

The fraudsters will then ask you for personal information to enable them to assist you and then use the information to defraud you and/or SARS.

What fraudsters want

SARS noted that fraudsters almost always want a combination of the following:

  • Identity number;
  • Telephone number;
  • Address (physical and/or work);
  • Email address;
  • Income tax number;
  • VAT number or any other SARS reference number associated with you;
  • SARS eFiling username and password;
  • Bank account details;
  • Financial statements;

In some instances, they may even convince you to provide them with copies of your identity document, and proof of address, the revenue collector said.

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SARS warns of new WhatsApp scam targeting taxpayers