Watch out for these HMRC tax refund scams
Scammers regularly send out fake emails supposedly from HMRC promising a tax refund. Here's what to watch out for.
Fraudsters regularly send out thousands of tax refund 'phishing' emails, particularly around the tax deadline times of 31st January and 31st October.
In the three months prior to this year's self assessment deadline at the end of January, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) received reports of 23,247 scam emails. That's a shocking increase of 47% on the same period a year earlier. As a result last month the taxman was able to close 178 illegal websites in January, compared to 65 in the same month in 2013.
Across 2013 as a whole HMRC closed down a whopping 1,476 scam websites linked to these phishing emails
These emails ask you to input your credit card or bank details into an online form, so that the rebate can be paid to you. But if you provide your details, your account will be emptied and your credit cards will be used to their limit, and you may also become a victim of identity fraud.
Don't be caught out. Here's what to look out for.
What the emails look like
While the emails look genuine, complete with HMRC logo and official-style reference numbers, the dubious English ("your fiscal activity") should set alarm bells ringing.
Often, the email addresses look genuine too, often ending in 'hmrc.gov.uk'. Here are some of the reported email addresses used to distribute the tax rebate emails, according to HMRC:
The fake phishing website you click through to can also look genuine, as this example demonstrates.
How you can tell the email is a fake
Simple: HMRC never contacts customers who are due a refund by email. It only ever sends such a letter by post.
Similarly, it's worth knowing that HMRC never contacts taxpayers about refunds by telephone, and never uses external companies regarding refunds.
Basically, if it doesn't come in the post from HMRC, it's fake. End of story.
What to do if you receive an email
If you do get an email like this, you should send it to HMRC for investigation before deleting it. Forward all suspicious emails to HMRC at email@example.com.
And if you have reason to believe you have been the victim of an email scam, report the issue to your bank/card issuer as soon as possible.
Get safe online
Remember, phishing emails are common for all sorts of issues. As a rule of thumb, never click on links contained in suspicious emails or open attachments. You can get more help via the Get Safe Online website or read our top 12 tips to keep you safe online. If you use online banking, you may also want to read Online banking: how to stay safe.
If you spot a scam, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or post it on our Q&A pages.
This is a classic lovemoney article that has been updated