Many people turn to HMRC for guidance on how to correctly handle their affairs, meaning it offers scammers many opportunities to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. The problem is so big that HMRC have departments entirely dedicated to reporting all manner of scams. As they detail, these scams could be done through phone calls, texts or “phishing” emails.
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Phishing scams are based around a scammer pretending to be associated with the intended source, in this case HMRC, with the aim of stealing the victims data, credentials or money.
HMRC themselves provide useful advice for spotting these type of scams. They detail that they will never send out an email, text or phone individuals with information on a tax rebate or penalty. Nor will they ask for any personal or payment information.
HMRC provides guidance on recognising scams for anyone who is unsure of what to look out for.
Problems with scams stretch over into the private sector too, particularly those that are online focused. McAfee, the global computer security firm, are dedicated to protecting consumers from these types of problems.
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HMRC has become a prime operating ground for scammers (Image: GETTY)
Personal details can be “phished” from victims (Image: GETTY)
According to recent research from McAfee, 18 percent of British people were either the victim of a scam or know somebody who was in 2019, with 71 percent of those scammed losing more than £500.
It’s likely that some of this money was lost via malicious HMRC schemes, with the government revealing that 20,750 fake HMRC websites were taken down over 2017/18.
This increase in online scams focused around HMRC was examined by John Fokker, the head of cyber investigations for McAfee.
As he details: “Fraudsters can use a variety of approaches to get their hands on your money and personal information.
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“Money related scams are high on the agenda for cybercriminals, praying on unsuspecting Britons with the aim of gaining access to personal information such as banking details or payment information.
“We’ve seen an increase in HMRC scams. These can involve cybercriminals sending fraudulent emails by spoofing genuine email addresses or changing the display name to appear genuine.
“However, these emails often contain malicious links or requests for consumers to disclose personal or payment information.
“Although the implementation of Domain-based Message Authentication (DMARC) by HMRC enables email service providers to identify fraudulent emails and prevent delivery into our inboxes, there’s still a chance these emails may get through.
Precautions can be taken to reduce the risk (Image: GETTY)
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“It’s important to remember that HMRC will never send notifications by email about tax refunds or rebates, so if you receive one of these emails, it is recommended to forward these to [email protected]
“Other tactics include cybercriminals sending phishing SMS messages or bogus phone calls, which again involve them fraudulently posing as HMRC.
“To confirm, HMRC will never ask for financial information via text, so if you receive a similar message, do not open any links and send the SMS message to 60599 then delete it.”
With the problem being so prevalent, many may be worried about falling victim. Fortunately, Mr Fokker was able to provide advice on avoiding HMRC scams exclusively with express.co.uk. His top tips are as follows:
Elderly people are often targeted for their perceived vulnerability (Image: GETTY)Phishing emails, just don’t click
“Clicking on links within phishing emails often direct you to an illegitimate webpage, aiming to capture your personal details. These links can also result in malware being downloaded onto your device, which can then track and take personal information when you buy online.”
Be wary of phone scams
“If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from HMRC requesting personal information, it’s best to hang up and ring back using their official contact number. Additionally, scammers may also leave urgent “callback” requests through pre-recorded phone robots known as ‘robo calls’ and they’ll politely ask for you to verify your identity over the phone. These robo calls will even alter caller ID numbers to make it look as if HMRC are calling. Again, it’s always best to dial the official contact number if in doubt.”
Go to the source
“If you receive a message that appears to be from your bank or government saying there is a problem with your HMRC status, call them directly to confirm the issue. As a rule of thumb, if you ever receive an email requesting personal info, always go directly to the company’s website to be sure you’re working with the real deal and determine the legitimacy of the request from there. If there’s still anything in question, feel free to call their support line.”
“Install comprehensive security software all of your computers and devices…Look for software that protects you from malware, phishing attempts, and risky websites, as well as providing identity protection”