By Max Clarke

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is warning taxpayers to be vigilant following a surge of fake ‘phishing’ emails sent out by fraudsters, following the 31 January Self Assessment tax return filing deadline.

The email informs the recipient they are due a tax rebate, and provides a click-through link to a replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is asked to provide their credit card 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.

The warning is being issued shortly after the Office for Fair Trading launched their ‘Scam Awareness Month’ after research showed 1 in 20 people falls victim to fraud each year. In the last three months, HMRC has shut down 99 websites that were responsible for sending out the fake tax rebate emails.

Chris Hopson, Director of Customer Contact at HMRC, said:
“As a matter of policy, HMRC will only ever contact customers who are due a tax refund in writing by post. If anyone receives an email offering a tax rebate claiming to be from HMRC, we recommend they send it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk before deleting it permanently.”

HMRC thoroughly investigates phishing attacks and works with other law enforcement agencies in the UK and overseas. In the last 18 months, scam networks have been shut down in a number of countries, including Austria, Mexico, the UK, South Korea, the USA, Thailand and Japan.

HMRC strongly advises customers to:
• Check the advice published at www.hmrc.gov.uk/security to see if the email you have received is listed;
• Forward suspicious emails to HMRC at phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and then delete it from your computer/mail account;
• Do not click on websites, links contained in suspicious emails or open attachments; and
• Follow advice from www.getsafeonline.co.uk.

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 www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/fraud-attempts.htm.

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