HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has confirmed that reports of fraudulent 'phishing' emails have risen by 300 percent over the last year. The department warns anyone receiving an email claiming to be from HMRC telling the taxpayer they are due a tax repayment not to follow the email's instructions.
The emails provide a "click-through link" to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. At that point the recipient is asked to provide their credit or debit card details - all the information the criminals need to empty your account, and sell on your personal details.
Almost 24,000 such emails were reported to HMRC in August alone - an increase of nearly 300 per cent compared to the same month last year. HMRC is currently helping to shut down around 100 scam websites a month.
Joan Wood, Director of HMRC Online and Digital, said: "We only ever contact customers who are due a tax refund in writing by post. We currently don't use telephone calls, emails or external companies in these circumstances.
"If anyone receives an email claiming to be from HMRC, please send it to email@example.com before deleting it permanently.
"The increase in reports is partly due to improved awareness of this scam. However, I have no doubt that more of these "phishing" emails are in general circulation than ever before.
"HMRC will do everything possible to ensure those receiving this email know what steps to take to protect their information, and we are working closely with other law enforcement agencies to target the criminals behind this serious crime and see them brought to justice."
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Remember that HMRC will not email you regarding a tax refund.
Check the advice published at here to see if the email you have received is listed.
Forward suspicious emails to HMRC at firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete it from your computer/mail account
Do not click on websites, links contained in suspicious emails or open attachments
If you have reason to believe that you have been the victim of an email scam, report the matter to your bank/card issuer as soon as possible. If in doubt please check with HMRC here.