A warning has been issued by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) about fake or “phishing” emails sent out by fraudsters.
Customers have to renew their claims by 31 July - or their payments may be stopped.
In the run-up to the tax credits renewal deadline often sees an increase in such attacks, and in May 2011 a record 26,301 phishing attempts were reported to HMRC.
The scam email usually starts with the sentence such as “we have reviewed your tax return and our calculations of your last years accounts show a tax refund of XXXX is due”
The phishing emails often promise a rebate and, if taxpayers click on the link, they are taken to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is asked to provide credit or debit card details or other sensitive information such as passwords. Fraudsters then try to take money from the account.
Victims risk having money stolen from their bank accounts, or their personal details being sold on to criminal gangs for identify fraud.
During last year’s tax credits renewals period, from April to July, nearly 94,000 phishing emails were reported by customers. Even though HMRC helped shut down more than 360 scam websites during the period, others continue to be created.
Steve Lamey, Director General for Benefits and Credits, 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. Anyone who receives an email claiming to be from HMRC should send it to [email protected] before deleting it permanently.”
HMRC works with other law enforcement agencies in the UK and overseas to investigate and shut down phishing attacks. Scam networks have been closed in a number of countries, including Austria, Mexico, the UK, South Korea, the USA, Thailand and Japan.
HMRC advises customers to:
- Check the advice published on the HMRC website see if an email received is listed.
- Forward suspicious emails to HMRC at [email protected] and then delete them.
- Do not click on websites or links contained in suspicious emails, nor to open attachments.
- Follow advice from Get Safe Online.
- If people believe that they have been the victim of an email scam, they should report the matter to their bank/ card issuer as soon as possible. Anyone in doubt should check with the HMRC fraud attempts page.
Please note that Action Fraud is not responsible for the content of external websites.
To report a fraud, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.