TAXPAYERS have been issued with a warning about scam emails claiming to be from HM Revenue and Customs.
A spokesman for the service said it was essential anyone receiving an email claiming to be from HMRC, telling them they are due a tax repayment did not follow the email’s instructions.
The emails provide a ‘click-through link’ to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details. Providing the information asked for enables criminals to steal the account, he said.
Victims risk not only having their bank accounts emptied but also their personal details being sold on to other organised criminal gangs.
Almost 24,000 such emails were reported to HMRC in August alone – an increase of nearly 300 per cent compared to the same month last year.
HMRC is currently helping to shut down around 100 scam websites a month, he added.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org before deleting it permanently.”
“The increase in reports is partly due to improved awareness of this scam however, I have no doubt that more of these ‘phishing’ emails are in general circulation than ever before.
“HMRC will do everything possible to ensure those 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 as they are called and works with other law enforcement agencies in the UK and overseas. In the last two years, scam networks have been shut down in a number of countries, including Austria, Mexico, the UK, South Korea, the USA, Thailand and Japan.
It advises customers check the advice published at www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/index.htm to see if the email they have received is listed. They should then forward suspicious emails to HMRC at email@example.com and then delete it from their computer or mail account and do not click on websites, links contained in suspicious emails or open attachments.
Anyone who thinks they may have been the victim of an email scam should report the matter to their bank/card issuer as soon as possible. If in doubt please check with HMRC at www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/fraud-attempts.htm.