Tax refund scams on the up

The number of scam emails in circulation promising people bogus tax refunds has reached record levels.

According to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), some 83,000 such fraudulent emails were reported last month.

The phishing emails purport to offer recipients a tax repayment; the real aim is to secure bank account or credit card details.

Once such information is handed over to the fraudsters, it is used to empty accounts and to make credit card purchases. Or the details could be sold on to other criminal gangs.

HMRC has said that the latest wave of criminal emails has its origins in various different websites, each of which operate for about 20 minutes before changing the domain name.

Taxpayers are being urged by HMRC to take a series of steps to protect themselves from the fraudsters.

Recipients of scam emails should check the advice published at www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/index.htm to see if the email is listed there. Any suspicious emails should be forwarded to HMRC at phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and then deleted from the taxpayer’s email account.

People should not click on any websites or links contained in suspicious emails or open any attachments.

Anyone who thinks they have been the victim of a tax email scam should report the matter to their bank or card issuer as soon as possible.

John Harrison, the head of HMRC customer contact online, said: “We only contact customers who are due a refund in writing by post. We never use emails, telephone calls or external companies in these circumstances.

“I would strongly encourage anyone receiving such an email not to open it, send it to us for investigation and then delete it from their computer.”