Beware of ‘phishing’ emails

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is warning taxpayers not to fall victim to ‘phishing’ emails sent out by fraudsters in the run-up to the self-assessment deadline of January 31.

The email tells the recipient they are due a tax rebate, and provides a link to a clone of HMRC’s website where the recipient is asked to give their credit card or bank details. Fraudsters then try to take money from the account using the details provided. Victims risk having their bank accounts emptied and their personal details sold on to other organised criminal gangs.

In the last three months, HMRC has helped shut down 185 websites that were responsible for sending out the fake tax rebate emails.

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 currently 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. “HMRC will do everything possible to ensure those people 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. Scam networks have previously been shut down in various countries, including Austria, Mexico, the UK, South Korea, the USA, Thailand and Japan.

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