CUSTOMS officers have warned taxpayers to be wary of a new phone scam where callers telephone businesses pretending to be the taxman.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) said it had received reports of fraudsters informing businesses – and members of the public – they were due a tax rebate, and then asking for their bank card details over the phone.
The scam email often begins with a sentence such as “We have reviewed your tax return and our calculations of your last year’s accounts show a tax refund of XXXX is due.”
The thieves then attempt to take money from the account using the details provided. HMRC said victims risked having their bank accounts emptied and their personal details sold on to other organised criminal gangs.
The warning comes amid a recent surge in the number of tax scam “phishing” emails reported to HMRC. In the last three months, HMRC said it had shut down more than 180 websites that were responsible for sending out the fake tax rebate emails.
HMRC said the increase in the number of scam emails reported to it was partly due to people following its advice and forwarding the messages to the department’s online reporting facility.
Such is the scale of the problem that in September last year, a record 83,000 phishing attempts were reported to HMRC. The following month, an unprecedented 10,000 reports of phishing scams were made to HMRC on one day alone.
Chris Hopson, Director of Customer Contact at HMRC said: “We only ever contact customers who are due a tax refund in writing by post. We never use telephone calls, emails or external companies in these circumstances. We strongly urge anyone receiving such a phone call not to give any information to the caller, but report it to the police straightaway.
“If customers receive an email claiming to be from HMRC, we recommend they send it to us for investigation before deleting it permanently.”
HMRC said it thoroughly investigated phishing attacks and worked with other law enforcement agencies in the UK and overseas. In the last 18 months, scam networks have been shut down in a number of countries, including Austria, Mexico, the UK, South Korea, the USA, Thailand and Japan.