UK citizens and expats urged to report phishing emails offering tax refunds

Published:  16 Mar at 6 PM
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British expats are being warned by HMRC over a new corona virus-related scam
email purporting to be from the British tax authority.

As infections rise across Europe including the UK and more people find themselves quarantined at home with little to keep themselves busy, a phishing email is doing the rounds. The message is luring the vulnerable via incorrect information that the British taxman is offering refunds to those in financial trouble due to the virus. According to the email, the British government has introduced a tax refund programme to help those in financial difficulties due to the pandemic. Refunds, it states, amount to GBP128.34 and can be had simply by sharing the applicant’s name, address, bank card number, phone number and mother’s maiden name.

Email scams of this type are often aimed at the elderly and mostly use a well-known, often official brand. The UK tax office is now reporting an increasing number of scams claiming to be from HMRC and offering tax refunds, targeted at both resident British citizens and UK expats living overseas. The fake emails either request recipients to click on a link or enter personal details, invariably resulting in the theft of money from the accounts of those who reply. Genuine messages from HMRC are never sent via email out of the blue and never ask for passwords or details of bank accounts.

The World Health Organisation is also warning the incidence of phishing emails has soared since panic set in over the virus's rapid worldwide spread and its effect on those unable to work or whose businesses are badly affected by countrywide lockdowns. Its own guidance pages clarify this and other scams, and advise all those who receive such messages to forward them to [email protected]
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