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Phishing scams on the rise, warns HMRC

Cherry Reynard
Written By:
Cherry Reynard

HMRC said fraudsters are exploiting the tax refund period to scam people out of their savings.

The tax authority is currently processing tax refunds after the end of the 2017/18 financial year. Criminals are sending out emails and text messages designed to trick taxpayers into handing out their account and personal details after believing they have received a tax rebate.

HMRC received 771, 227 customer phishing email/SMS referrals in the year to March 2018 and 1.1 million direct visits to its security pages. It also reported 14,631 malicious websites for takedown over the same period, 2,672 in March alone. The UK tax authorities are currently working on a system designed to reduce this type of scam, through firewalling.

Treasury Minister, Mel Stride MP, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “HMRC only informs you about tax refunds through the post or through your pay via your employer. All emails, text messages, or voicemail messages saying you have a tax refund are a scam. Do not click on any links in these messages and forward them to HMRC’s phishing email address and phone number.

“We know criminals will try and use events like the end of the financial year, the self-assessment deadline, and the issuing of tax refunds to target the public and attempt to get them to reveal their personal data. It is important to be alert to the danger.”

Anyone owed a genuine tax rebate will receive a tax calculation letter by post between June and October. This will explain how the refund will be paid. 

HMRC tips to spot scams

  1. Recognise the signs – genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details.
  2. Stay safe – don’t give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting.
  3. Take action. Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and texts to 60599, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls or use its online fraud reporting tool.
  4. Check GOV.UK for information on how to avoid and report scams and how to recognise genuine HMRC contact.
  5. If you think you have received an HMRC related phishing/bogus email or text message, you can check it against the examples shown in this HMRC phishing guide.