What to do if you get scam messages from HMRC
We all know how important it is to stay safe online.
Fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to steal our personal data and take away our hard earned cash.
Online fraud attempts are especially prevalent when it comes to the taxman.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) have reported they have taken down more than 20,000 malicious websites in the last year.
The number of malicious websites taken down by HMRC was up 29% on the year before, with a total of 20,750 such sites removed.
Regardless of this sterling effort by HMRC to take these fraudulent sites off the Internet, the taxman is warning taxpayers about the need to stay alert to the threat.
Awareness of these issues is important because of the often large sums of money involved. Taxpayers who fall for such scams risk losing substantial amounts of cash.
One approach HMRC has been taking is trialling new technology designed to identify phishing text messages which contain features suggesting they come from the taxman.
This new technology then stops the text message from being delivered.
Since this technology pilot started back in April last year, it has resulted in a 90% reduction in the number of people reporting HMRC-related scam messages.
Back in November 2016, HMRC put in place a new verification system which allows emails to be checked, making sure they come from a genuine source. The system, called DMARC, has successfully prevented half a billion phishing emails from receiving taxpayers.
Finally, HMRC has been taking on the fraudsters who trick taxpayers into using premium rate phone numbers to access free HMRC services. This initiative has saved taxpayers more than £2.4 million.
The premium rate scam involves the fraudsters creating lookalike websites, similar to the official HMRC website, and directing website visitors to use very expensive phone numbers. By changing the ownership of these websites, HMRC is able to remove them from the Internet and protect taxpayers.
There’s only so much the taxman and other government bodies can do to identify and eliminate online clones and other malicious websites. This means taxpayers need to be aware and play their part in the reporting of these phishing attempts.
It’s always worth repeating the fact that genuine organisations, including HMRC and banks, will never ask you for your PIN, password or bank details, especially when contacting you out of the blue.
In order to keep safe online, you should never give out your private information, click on suspicious links in emails, or download dodgy attachments, unless you are confident about the source.
If a suspicious email purporting to be from HRMC arrives in your email inbox, then you should forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Malicious text messages which appear to be from the taxman should be forwarded to 60599.
Another way to report suspicious emails or other messages is to call the Action Fraud helpline on 0300 123 2040.
Alternatively, they have an online fraud reporting tool and https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report-a-fraud-including-online-crime-questions.
Treasury Minister Mel Stride MP, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:
The criminals behind these scams prey on the public and abuse their trust in government. We’re determined to stop them.
HMRC is cracking down harder than ever, as these latest figures show. But we need the public’s help as well. By doing the right thing and reporting suspicious messages you will not only protect yourself, you will protect other potential victims.
Knowing what sort of thing to look out for is an important step in keeping yourself safe online.
According to HMRC, the most common type of scam is the ‘tax refund’ email or SMS text message. This is always a scam because HMRC never offers tax refunds by email or text message.
Have you received scam emails or text messages pretending to be from the taxman?