HMRC has issued a warning about email phishing scams which offer tax rebates in return for bank account or credit card details, after a sharp rise in reported attempts at fraud using this method.
In the three months prior to the 31 January filing deadline for online tax return submission, taxpayers reported 23,247 phishing emails to HMRC, a 47% rise on the same period the previous year. During 2013, customers reported over 91,000 phishing emails to HMRC. In response, HMRC closed 178 websites last month, up from 65 in January 2013. During 2013, HMRC closed down 1,476 websites sending these types of scam emails, which were based around the world, including the US and Russia.
The scam emails typically begin with a sentence such as ‘we have reviewed your tax return; according to our calculations of your last year’s accounts a tax refund of XXXX is due.’ Anyone who responds is at risk of having their personal and financial details passed on to criminal gangs
Gareth Lloyd, head of digital security at HMRC, said: ‘HMRC never contacts customers who are due a tax refund via email – we always send a letter through the post. “If you receive an email claiming to be from HMRC which offers a tax rebate, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete it permanently.’
Bogus HMRC emails have also been circulated to employers containing zip file attachments or hyperlinks, which HMRC warns should not be opened because they include a virus.