If you have received an email from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) suggesting that you qualify for a tax rebate, a new warning has revealed it is a fake and simply aimed at getting you to reveal your personal details to fraudsters.
HMRC has revealed that during 2012 it received reports of 80,000 phishing emails, often promising tax rebates, in return for providing personal information. HMRC also said that the number of phishing emails tended to increase at this time of the year, as many people have recently submitted their self-assessment forms and would naturally be looking for return correspondence from the taxman.
Many experts believe that the 80,000 figure quoted by HMRC is just the tip of the iceberg, with most fake emails simply being deleted by the recipient and never reported to the taxman.
The phishing emails generally contain a link to a fake website, designed to look like HMRC’s own site and ask for personal information, such as name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number, details of savings accounts and your current account details, which the scammers will then use in various different types of fraud.
HMRC said yesterday that they never email people about tax refunds, always contacting them in writing by post whilst enclosing a P800 tax rebate form and a payment order.
Gareth Lloyd, of HMRC said: “If anyone receives an email offering a tax rebate and claiming to be from HMRC, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org before deleting it permanently.”
Whilst HMRC is taking action against the fraudsters, closing down 552 sites in 2012, in countries as far afield as Russia, Japan and the USA, it is clear that people need to remain vigilant.
HMRC points out there are a number of actions people can take, to avoid being tricked into handing over their personal details and potentially opening themselves up to fraud.
Firstly, be on the lookout for emails which start with phrases such as: “We have reviewed your tax return according to our calculations of your last year’s accounts a tax refund of is due” and remember that if you are due a tax refund you will be always notified in writing, and never by email.
Secondly, HMRC will never ask for personal details such as bank account numbers or credit card details, if you receive an email purporting to be from the taxman and asking for such details, they should never be handed over.
Thirdly, if you do receive a suspicious an email, never open it, or any attachments, don’t respond, and never hand over any personal information; simply report it to HMRC by emailing email@example.com and delete the offending email.
Finally, if you have responded to an email you think could be part of a scam, you should immediately forward the offending email to HMRC, including the details you revealed, to firstname.lastname@example.org and also contact your credit and debit card providers as well as your bank.