A record-breaking 8.48 million tax returns were filed online by last week’s 31 January filing deadline. However, the three months prior to the deadline also saw customers report 23,247 phishing emails to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) – up 47% on the same period a year earlier. During 2013, customers reported over 91,000 phishing emails to HMRC.
Anyone responding to this type of email risks opening their bank account to fraudsters and having their details sold on to other organised criminal gangs.
As a result of customers forwarding these emails to HMRC, the department was last month able to close 178 websites which it found were the source of these emails – up from 65 in January 2013. During 2013, HMRC closed down 1,476 websites sending these types of scam emails.
Gareth Lloyd, Head of Digital Security at HMRC, said:
“HMRC never contacts customers who are due a tax refund via email – we always send a letter through the post.
“If you receive an email claiming to be from HMRC which offers a tax rebate, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete it permanently. We can, and do, close these websites down, and do all we can to ensure taxpayers stay safe online by working with law enforcement agencies around the world to target the criminals behind these scams.”
HMRC strongly advises customers who receive such an email to:
Check the advice published at www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/index.htm where examples of these fake emails are listed;
Forward suspicious emails to HMRC at email@example.com and then delete it from your computer/mail account;
Avoid clicking on websites, links or attachments contained in suspicious emails;
If you have responded to one of these emails you should forward the email and disclosed details to firstname.lastname@example.org;
Read the advice from www.getsafeonline.co.uk.
HMRC action has led to websites being closed down around the world, including in the USA, Russia and elsewhere.