UK tax office warns Britons not to fall for bogus tax refund emails

Published:  12 Feb at 6 PM
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HM Revenue and Customs is warning all British taxpayers to ignore emails promising bogus tax refunds.

The ongoing scam involves emails being sent by the thousands to British taxpayers, stating that tax refunds are due and providing a link supposedly to an official form requesting details of bank accounts and credit cards. HMRC is urging taxpayers not to click on the links and delete the email immediately.

A number of taxpayers who unwittingly replied to the emails have reported that their bank accounts were emptied almost immediately after their email replies were sent. Others have seen their online identities stolen and sold on, reportedly by overseas gangs of fraudsters.

The scam has been ongoing since autumn last year, with around 25,000 reporting they’d received a suspicious email purportedly from the tax office. During the entire year, it’s estimated that 100,000 phishing scam emails had been received.

The problem, it seems, has affecting expats living abroad as well as residents in the UK, as around 1500 phishing sites were closed down last year by special investigators from the HMRC. Sites were found based in Russia, China and the USA.

According to HMRC’s head of digital secutiry, Gareth Lloyd, the tax office never sends emails concerning any financial matter to British taxpayers due to the risk of their being intercepted and personal details stolen. All such communications, he added, are sent by post.

Lloyd warned that sites which have been shut down can spring up again within hours, even although police and other agencies worldwide are working with HMRC to apprehend the fraudsters. One indication that an email is fraudulent is that an immediate response is required, as most letters from the tax authorities request a reply within 30 days.

Anyone receiving a suspicious email should check HMRC’s website for comparisons and forward the email to the authority before deleting it. Clicking on links or attachments contained in the email should be avoided.
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