Taxpayers reported almost 80,000 tax rebate phishing emails last year, HMRC has revealed as it warns people not to fall victim to the scams, states chartered accountant Harris & Co.
The emails promise a tax refund in exchange for personal, credit card or banking details. However, people who respond risk opening their account to fraud and having details sold on to organised criminal gangs. Emails often link to a clone of HMRC’s genuine website to trick unsuspecting taxpayers into handing over their details, but HMRC never sends emails about a genuine tax rebate. HMRC took action to close down 522 illegal sites in 2012, which showed these emails originated from a number of countries including the US, Russia and Japan, as well as central and eastern Europe.
Gareth Lloyd, head of digital security for HMRC said:
‘HMRC does not email customers about tax refunds - we only ever contact customers who are genuinely due tax back in writing, by post.’
‘If anyone receives an email offering a tax rebate and claiming to be from HMRC, please send it to email@example.com before deleting it permanently. HMRC does everything it can to ensure customers are safe online and we are working closely with other law enforcement agencies to target the criminals behind this serious crime.’
To help customers stay safe online, HMRC strongly advises customers to:
•Check the advice published at www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/index.htm where they can see if the email received is listed
•Forward suspicious emails to HMRC at firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete it from your computer/mail account
•Do not click on websites or links contained in suspicious emails or open attachments
•Follow advice from www.getsafeonline.co.uk
•Anyone who has answered one of these emails should forward the email and disclosed details to email@example.com
If you have reason to believe that you have been the victim of an email scam, report the matter to your bank/card issuer as soon as possible. If in doubt please check with HMRC.