Received an email from HMRC which sounds too good to be true? The chances are it probably is writes Jodie Street of Northampton based accountancy firm DNG Chartered Accountants. You may have entered the world of phishing and fraud.
I am regularly contacted by clients who tell me they have received an email from HMRC about a tax refund. Understandably, they’re often a little surprised that we haven’t already dealt with it on their behalf.
My first question will always be: ‘Have you replied to the email?’ That’s because I know that they may well have compromised their security, even before they’ve got on the phone to me.
Through experience we’ve become pretty wise to this kind of thing. These emails often seem very convincing, although the reality is that HMRC never notifies anyone of a tax rebate by email or offers a repayment that way. So how can you protect yourself?
HMRC have issued guidance entitled ‘Genuine HM Revenue and Customs contact and recognising phishing emails’. This document explains the circumstances under which the Revenue will make direct contact and also includes a number of points to look out for, which we have detailed below:
The first and most obvious points to look out for are spelling mistakes and poor grammars, as these are a common feature of a bogus or so-called ‘phishing’ email.
It is possible that fraudsters can falsify the ‘from’ address to look like a legitimate HMRC address (@hmrc.gov.uk), although it may also be that they use something similar to mislead you (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org). If you’re in any doubt, don’t open the email. And if you do open it, but are dubious about the content, do not click on any links or downloads.
Fraudsters will seldom have your name, so the way they address you may be a giveaway. If you have signed up to HMRC subscription services, they should usually use the name you’ve given them. It won’t be addressed to ‘Dear Customer’ or similar.
Fraudsters like to put you under pressure to reply, claiming that their request is ‘urgent’ or that you only have three days to respond. This is not what you would expect from a genuine HMRC email.
HMRC are also advising about a number of other scams circulating. These purport to be from HMRC offering tax refunds or threatening legal action. Individuals are being contacted via Social Media regarding tax refunds or over the telephone. They are also aware of a scam where a recorded message is left stating that HMRC are bringing a lawsuit against the individual and to contact a number urgently.
It’s worth remembering that HMRC will never ask you to disclose your personal information such as full address, postcode, Unique Taxpayer Reference or ask for details of your bank account. They will never request financial information such as specific figures or tax computations, unless you’ve given prior consent. And they will certainly never ask you to respond to a personal email address.
When HMRC want you to access information online, they will ask you to go to your account and log in. They will not provide a link to a log-in page or a form. Remember, any fake pages scammers create may well look genuine at first glance. If they contain links to banks/building societies, however, or have fields and boxes requesting passwords, credit card or bank account details, be very suspicious.
The message of this blog is to be vigilant, particularly when it comes to your personal details. HMRC have an email address where you are able to report phishing messages. They request that any such emails are forwarded to help with HMRC’s investigations.
And remember we are here to help so if you receive a communication that appears to relate to your tax affairs please speak to your advisor or contact us here.
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