Watch out for these HMRC tax refund scams

Simon Ward
by Lovemoney Staff Simon Ward on 07 February 2014  |  Comments 21 comments

Scammers regularly send out fake emails supposedly from HMRC promising a tax refund. Here's what to watch out for.

Watch out for these HMRC tax refund scams

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.

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What the emails look like

An example of a scam tax refund email

An example of a scam tax refund email

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:

  • services@hmrc.co.uk
  • noreply@hmrevenue.com
  • service@hmrc.gov.uk
  • service.refund@hmrc.gov
  • secure@hmrc.co.uk
  • hmrc@gov.uk
  • taxes@hmrc.co.uk
  • taxrefund-notice@hmrc.gov.uk
  • taxrefund@hmrc.gov.uk
  • refund-help@hmrc.gov.uk
  • service@online.com
  • email@hmrc.gov.uk
  • refund.alert@hmrc.gov.uk
  • refunds@hmrc.gov.uk
  • customs@hmrc.gov.uk
  • srvcs@hmrc.gov.uk
  • alertsonline@hmrc.co.uk
  • info@hmrc.gov.uk
  • rebate@hmrc.gov.uk

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.

So even if the email looks as genuine as this one, it's likely to be a fake.

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.

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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 phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk.

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 news@lovemoney.com or post it on our Q&A pages.

This is a classic lovemoney article that has been updated

More on scams and frauds

Tony Levene's scams blog

How to spot a fake £1 coin

Sneakiest phone scams

Watch out for this eBay scam!

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Comments (21)

  • Meduza
    Love rating 8
    Meduza said

    those working people were meant to be working class people, i guess. many are illiterate. i am a london university graduate and still my english grammar is not perfect (i dont use capitals deliberately though). i speak two more languages and i am learning a third one. the additional two, i once was able to hold a reasonable conversation in, are almost completely forgotten (use it or lose it). nonetheless, i still may fail to spot grammatical errors in such fake mails and i still make many stylistic and grammatical (or even vocabulary) errors. just saying. dont judge people for not being excellent in something, they may be great in other things and fall victims to such scams. but they all are required to comply with the law and submit tax return when they have their own business, not being aware of such scams. some may be dyslexic or having other mental impairment making them more vulnerable.

    Report on 16 February 2014  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • hopefultom
    Love rating 50
    hopefultom said

    @Medusa

    I am curious to know why you, or anyone would refuse to use capital letters, like the rest of us.

    Who is your non-conformism aimed at ?

    Also, in view of your, obviously strong feelings, why have you used a capital in your username ?

    Whilst on the subject of grammar, if Oldhenry is reading this thread, perhaps he could explain why he seems to be serially incapable of spelling the word " the " correctly.

    Sorry for veering off-topic Simon.

    Report on 17 February 2014  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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