Increase in HMRC bogus email scam

We all know that whenever we receive any correspondence from HMRC most of us are inclined to act straight away to avoid any further action/penalties that they could impose. This reaction is exactly what scammers are relying on when they send you an email appearing to be from HMRC, asking you to click on a link or open an attachment. The emails will usually imply that you are under tax investigation or that you have outstanding liabilities due, that require immediate action to prevent further legal action being taking or even state that you are due a large tax refund. The scammers use our perceptions of HMRC to persuade us to click on the link/attachments. Once you do as the email asks you will usually be directed to a webpage designed to look like HMRC’s website, asking you to enter personal details and bank details or the attachments will contain viruses designed to steal your personal information. Once the scammer has your bank details and personal details they will then use them to access your bank account. These scams cost innocent people hundreds and thousands of pounds weekly as more and more people are scammed by this type of email.

Should you receive an email from HMRC and you are not sure whether it is genuine, the following are some points to be aware of;

– Bogus emails will usually contain obvious spelling mistakes and poor grammar
– The senders email address will not be from HMRC or will be from an account that appears to be from HMRC such as refunds@hmrc.org.uk but this is not an authentic email address from HMRC
– Emails from HMRC will never:

o Offer you a repayment
o Notify you of a tax rebate
o Ask you to provide personal information such as your full address, postcode, Unique Taxpayer Reference or your bank details
o Contain attachments unless you’ve formally agreed to the risk of using attachments
o Direct you to a secure form or landing page where you are required to provide personal information

– Scam emails will usually state that urgent action is required and will warn that if action is not taken you may suffer large penalties or even prosecution
– The email will contain links to websites that appear to be HMRC but require you to enter personal details or financial information. The email may also contain genuine links to trick you into thinking the email is legitimate.
– Scammers will usually only ever have your email address and so their emails will contain generic greetings such as Dear Sir/Madam. Genuine emails from HMRC will usually be addressed directly to the recipient using their name.

Should you receive an unexpected email from HMRC and you are not sure if it is legitimate, do not click on any links or open any attachments and forward the email to HMRC at phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk. HMRC’s website GOV.UK also contains useful information, simply search ‘phishing’.

Emma Boyle

This article is for general information only. You are recommended to seek professional advice before taking action on the basis of the contents of this article.