20th October 2014
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is warning taxpayers to be on their guard against fraudulent phishing emails, after almost 75,000 fake emails were reported to the taxman over the past six months alone.
Some 74,743 scam emails were reported to HMRC’s dedicated phishing email account between April and September – a 70% increase on the same period in 2013.
So-called phishing emails are sent in a bid to con people into divulging sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details. Such emails are typically presented as being from a trustworthy source.
Over the same six-month period, HMRC worked with other law enforcement agencies to help close down more than 4,000 websites responsible for sending out the emails.
The emails promise a tax refund, and often ask for a recipient’s name, address, date of birth, bank and credit card details – including passwords and their mother’s maiden name. Once the victim has provided the information, money is stolen from their bank account and their details are sold on to other criminal gangs, which can lead to identity theft.
Steve Singh, deputy head of operations, HMRC Digital Security, said: “HMRC never contacts customers who are due a tax refund by email – we always send a letter through the post.”
If you receive an email, which claims to be from HMRC, and which offers you a tax refund, Singh recommends you send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and then permanently delete it.
He added: “We can, and do, close these websites down and we continue our efforts to work with law enforcement agencies around the world to bring down the criminals behind these scams.