Assistant commissioner Graham Whyte says identity theft is more common during tax time because of the large number of people lodging tax returns.
“With the amount of personal information being exchanged at tax time, it is a prime opportunity for fraudsters,” Mr Whyte said.
“Highly organised crime networks use a range of methods to steal personal information in order to commit refund fraud.”
Of the 32,110 cases of identity theft reported to the ATO in 2014-15, 22,200 occurred during the peak tax return processing months from July to November (69.1 per cent).
The ATO recommends Australians put padlocks on their letterboxes, shred documents containing personal details, ensure passwords are strong, and use legitimate and up-to-date antivirus, firewall and anti-spyware software to protect their identities.
It also recommends reporting lost tax file numbers as soon as possible.
“My number one tip is to protect your tax file number by deleting or destroying any record of it from documents before throwing them away,” Mr Whyte said.
“When you contact us or submit a form, we use your TFN to identify you. Fraudsters try to steal TFNs and other personal information so that they can lodge tax returns and other tax forms.”
The ATO is also taking extra measures to endure the protection of Australians’ identities and is using new technology to help it to catch fraudulent acts early.
“We’re using sophisticated analytics to uncover acts of identity crime and refund fraud, and consistently monitor our online systems to pick up any instances of unusual activity,” Mr Whyte said.
“If we think a person’s identity has been compromised, we get in touch with them. Our Client Identity Support Centre provides support to taxpayers who have had their identities stolen, misused or otherwise compromised.”
Where the ATO does discover fraudulent activity, it provides the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with relevant information.
“This is an ongoing relationship where we provide intelligence and support on a continual basis, rather than formal referrals at a point in time,” Mr Whyte said.
“The ATO is often only a part of a much broader identity crime issue and prosecutions reflect the broader nature of these crimes.”