Thousands of scam sites shut down by HMRC

The figures relating to the number of scam sites are astonishing. Just in March 2018, HMRC asked for 2,672 fake websites to be taken down. 84,549 reports from taxpayers were made to HMRC in the same month.

How do the fake websites work?

These fake HMRC websites are known as ‘phishing’ websites because they send out emails or texts to ‘fish’ for potential targets. These emails or messages contain attachments or links which lead the unsuspecting individual to a phishing website which then tries to con you out of your passwords or other private information.

The criminals operating such scams have become very good at making their websites look like the real thing. If you go on appearances alone, you could easily accept that they are legitimate. That is why it is absolutely imperative that you familiarise yourself with how HMRC actually communicates with us.

Why are there lots of fake HMRC emails and messages at the moment?

At this time of year, everybody knows that HMRC are processing tax relief claims and many taxpayers are looking forward to receiving their tax rebate. Unfortunately, fraudsters try to capitalise on this by pretending to need your information in order to pay a tax rebate into your bank.

Which HMRC tax rebate emails and messages are real?

None of them; which makes avoiding the criminals a whole lot easier. HMRC only confirm a tax rebate through the post or through your employer and their payment system. HMRC never use voicemails, send SMS text messages or emails concerning a tax relief payment.

Mel Stride MP, Treasury Minister, confirms this:

“HMRC only informs you about tax refunds through the post or through your pay via your employer. All emails, text messages, or voicemail messages saying you have a tax refund are a scam. Do not click on any links in these messages, and forward them to HMRC’s phishing email address and phone number. We know that criminals will try and use events like the end of the financial year, the self-assessment deadline, and the issuing of tax refunds to target the public and attempt to get them to reveal their personal data. It is important to be alert to the danger.”

If you are expecting a tax rebate for the 2017-18 tax year, your letter will arrive between June and October.

What should I do if I get a suspicious email or text?

It’s tempting to just ignore and delete it, but reporting them really does help get the scam sites shut down.