New Year: same old tax scam


HMRCAndrew Milligan/PA Wire

As the deadline approaches for paying your self-assessment tax bill, the experts warn that the scammers are stepping up their efforts to cash in. A new wave of emails has been sent out to coincide with the deadline, claiming that you are due a refund, and can get your hands on hundreds of pounds by passing on a few details.

So how does the scam work, and how can you spot a bogus email?

The scam

These emails flood out from the scammers' networks every time we approach a deadline, for filing tax returns, paying bills, or at the year end. They tell you that you are due a refund, redirect you to a fake HMRC website, and ask for personal details.

One of the current wave reads: "After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity, we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of 268.50 GBP. Please submit the tax refund request and have your tax refund sent to your bank account in due time. Please Click "Get Started" to have your tax refund credit to your bank account in due time take your time to go through the bank we have on our list."

It's easy to be sucked in, after-all, regardless of what HMRC claims, the process can be very confusing, and there's always the hope that you don't owe as much as you had thought.

However, if you pass on your details, they can be used to access your accounts and withdraw cash. Often victims don't realise they have been attacked until their bank calls.

Spot the scam

HMRC says that the key point to remember is that it will never inform you of a tax rebate by email, so if you get one of these, they are always false. It would also never ask you to disclose any personal information by email, so this is false too.

If you are unsure, there are a number of signs that an email may not be the real thing.

1) The wrong email address: these may be similar (and designed to confuse you), such as:

2) You will be asked for personal information: HMRC would never ask for this.

3) There's an element of urgency: to encourage you to act rashly they will sometimes impose an artificial deadline.

4) Dear Customer: often this is a mass emailing, so they will not go to the trouble of including your name or tax reference number.

5) There may well be attachments: never click on these, as they could contain malicious viruses

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