Criminals are targeting the millions of people who file Self Assessment tax returns with a Government Gateway refund email scam.
The fraudsters are sending fake emails purporting to be from HMRC claiming they are owed a rebate and referencing their Government Gateway Account.
Anyone who files a Self Assessment tax return does need a Gateway Account, but these emails link to a fake login page designed to steal your personal details.
We've also seen text versions of this Gateway Account refund scam, which follow a similar theme.
In some variations, victims are even asked to enter their actual banking or credit card details. Don't do that...
What a tax refund scam email looks like
@HMRCcustomers @HMRCgovuk Hello, are you aware of this email scam doing the rounds? It looks quite convincing at first (especially as I’ve used the government gateway recently!) pic.twitter.com/MAPnEIAdbG— Philippa Curtis (@PhilippaDArcy) 26 November 2018
The emails come with the subject line “HM Gateway - your refund is now available | Payment receipt return” followed by a random "item number".
The body of the email typically reads:
Thank you for registering for the Government Gateway.
You have received this email to be notified that the UK Government has issued a refund and you'll receive [varied sum, usually in the hundreds of pounds] directly on your credit card."
How to spot a fake email
It's quite simple really. HMRC will never use emails (or texts) to tell you about a tax rebate or penalty. Nor will they ask for your for personal or payment information.
In case there is any uncertainty, here’s a full list of genuine HMRC emails sent out by the taxman to the public.
If you receive a mail claiming to be from the taxman but requesting any of the aforementioned info, don’t click on any of the links.
Forward it to HMRC’s phishing team at the address email@example.com and then simply delete it.
If you’ve handed any personal information in reply to a suspicious email or text, HMRC suggests contacting its security team on firstname.lastname@example.org, including brief details of what you shared – obviously don’t include your actual details, merely a broad description.
Will people fall for it?
As there are so many people filling out tax returns, it's sadly inevitable fraudsters will be targeting them. We've written about the most common HMRC scams here.
This latest one isn't terribly sophisticated, but it is the first we've seen trying to work the angle of creating a Government Gateway account.
While most people will be amazed such emails ever succeed, it's worth remembering some people are more technically savvy than others.
Indeed, there have already been a number of reported cases of people being conned out of cash by this scam, so it's important we put these warnings out there.
Stay informed: more scam alerts from the loveMONEY team: