According to HMRC, the amount of scam emails being sent out by criminals has risen by an incredible 300 percent over the past year.
Known as ‘phishing’ these scam emails will purport to be from HMRC, explain that the recipient is due a tax refund, and ask for vital bank details. Of course the emails are not from HRMC at all, but from international criminals who seek to prey on the unsuspecting and pilfer cash with stolen bank details.
The most common method will be to supply a link to a site that appears to be that of HMRC, once on the imitation site the victim will be asked to put in their details for the nefarious criminals claim.
Another worrying aspect of this type of scam is the network that such criminals operate in. People who unfortunately fall victim to such crimes often have their names and details placed on a ‘suckers list’ which is then distributed to other criminals who may attempt other scams.
Joan Wood, director of HMRC Online and Digital, warned of the dangers: “We only ever contact customers who are due a tax refund in writing by post. We currently don't use telephone calls, emails or external companies in these circumstances. If anyone receives an email claiming to be from HMRC, please send it to email@example.com before deleting it permanently. The increase in reports is partly due to improved awareness of this scam. However, I have no doubt that more of these "phishing" emails are in general circulation than ever before.”