‘If it seems to be good to be true, it probably is’ is a phrase most people are familiar with.
And it’s a phrase business owners are being urged to remember right now after reports of people receiving fake HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) tax refund emails.
According to national fraud and cyber reporting centre, Action Fraud UK, the latest scam emails, also known as phishing emails, have been in circulation for several weeks, since the run up to the self-assessment deadline on January 31.
While many businesses do tend to err on the side of caution, the latest HMRC email scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated, making it more difficult for business owners to detect whether they’re genuine or not.
The current scam emails, which claim to be from the ‘HMRC Office Gateway’, promise people a tax refund if they click on the link to the ‘customer portal.’ Once in the portal, recipients are then asked to enter their bank details in order to claim their tax rebate.
However, while these scam emails, such as the one that’s currently in circulation, might look genuine at first glance, there are some tell-tale signs that tend to give them away, such as if they:
- Contain spelling and grammatical errors
- Have been poorly designed
- Include your email address, but not your name (for instance, ‘Dear…’ followed by your email address)
- They’ve come from a web address that doesn’t look authentic. I.e. it’s really long and contains irrelevant words and phrases
It’s also worth noting here that no matter how genuine the emails may look, they’re not the method of communication HMRC uses to notify businesses about tax refunds
HMRC is constantly working to stamp out internet scams and phishing and since 2014, it has closed down 39,565 fake websites. It’s also proactively reminding businesses to be on their guard, with messages like these on its website:
HMRC will never use texts or emails to:
- Tell you about a tax rebate or penalty
- Ask for personal or payment information
The same warning can be found on its Twitter feed too:
What should you do if you’ve received a scam email?
If you believe you’ve been targeted by a HMRC email scam, or have received any other type of fake HMRC email, don’t delete it. Forward it to HMRC’s dedicated phishing team at email@example.com, who will investigate it.
And if you’ve had money deducted from your accounts that you didn’t given consent for or was taken without your prior knowledge, make sure you report the issue to your bank/ card issuer immediately.
Any suspicious texts should be forward to 60599.
More practical advice on recognising HMRC email scams, including examples of bogus emails, can be found on the HMRC website.
In the meantime, if you have any queries or would like to find out more, then please contact us on 01905 777600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anthony Middleton is responsible for monitoring all of Ormerod Rutter’s tax investigations and deals specifically with Corporation Tax and Income Tax enquiries. He has been a member of the team for 13 years.