Tax chiefs have issued a renewed call to taxpayers not to fall victim to email scams as new figures revealed that almost 80,000 tax rebate phishing emails were reported to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in 2012.
Although HMRC never sends emails about a tax rebate, fraudsters email their targets, saying they are entitled to a tax refund if the taxpayer provides personal, credit card or banking details.
However, people who respond risk opening their account to fraud and having details sold to organised criminal gangs. Emails often link to a clone of HMRC’s website to trick taxpayers into handing over their details.
HMRC said it acted to close down 522 illegal sites in 2012 and that emails came from countries including the US, Russia, Japan and central and eastern Europe.
Gareth Lloyd, head of digital security for HMRC, said: “We only ever contact customers who are genuinely due tax back in writing, by post. If anyone receives an email offering a tax rebate and claiming to be from HMRC, please send it to email@example.com before deleting it permanently.
“HMRC does everything it can to ensure customers are safe online and we are working closely with other law enforcement agencies to target the criminals behind this serious crime.”
As well as forwarding suspicious emails to HMRC, it says that taxpayers should not click on websites or links contained in suspicious emails or open attachments. Anyone who has answered a suspect email should forward the email and disclosed details to firstname.lastname@example.org
Taxpayers who believe they may have been the victim of an email scam should also report the issue to their bank/card issuer as soon as possible.