Email scams on the increase

REPORTS of fraudulent ‘phishing’ emails have risen by 300 percent over the past year HM Revenue and Customs has confirmed.

It is essential that anyone receiving an email claiming to be from HMRC, telling the taxpayer that they are due a tax repayment do not follow the email’s instructions.

The emails provide a ‘click-through link’ to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details. Providing the information asked for enables criminals to steal the account.

Victims risk not only having their bank accounts emptied but also their personal details being sold on to other organised criminal gangs.

Almost 24000 such emails were reported to HMRC in August alone – an increase of nearly 300 percent compared to the same month last year.

HMRC is currently helping to shut down around 100 scam websites a month.

Joan Wood, Director of HMRC Online and Digital, said: “We only ever contact customers who are due a tax refund in writing by post. We don’t use telephone calls, emails or external companies in these circumstances. If anyone receives an email claiming to be from HMRC, please send it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk before deleting it permanently.”

“The increase in reports is partly due to improved awareness of this scam however, I have no doubt that more of these ‘phishing’ emails are in general circulation than ever before.

“HMRC will do everything possible to ensure those receiving this email know what steps to take to protect their information, and we are working closely with other law enforcement agencies to target the criminals behind this serious crime and see them brought to justice.”

HMRC thoroughly investigates phishing attacks and works with other law enforcement agencies in the UK and overseas. In the last two years, scam networks have been shut down in a number of countries, including Austria, Mexico, the UK, South Korea, the USA, Thailand and Japan.

HMRC strongly advises customers to:

Check the advice published at www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/index.htm to see if the email you have received is listed

Forward suspicious emails to HMRC at phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and then delete it from your computer/mail account

Do not click on websites, links contained in suspicious emails or open attachments

Follow advice from www.getsafeonline.co.uk

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 at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/fraud-attempts.htm

The scam email often begins with a sentence such as ‘we have reviewed your tax return and our calculations of your last years accounts a tax refund of XXXX is due.’

Legitimate tax rebate forms (P800s) from HMRC will contain a payment order and will never ask for credit or debit card details.