Tax & admin · 3 July 2018

Record number of fake HMRC websites deactivated over past year

SMS Phishing scam
A phishing scam can come in many forms, from email through to SMS

As fraudsters continue to target Britain’s micro business community, official figures reveal that a record number of fake HMRC websites were shut down in the last 12 months.

New figures from the tax office have shown that 20,750 malicious sites acting as HMRC were sent requests to be taken down since summer 2017 – an increase of 29% on the previous year.

During the 2017/18 financial year, HMRC responded to almost 1m phishing referrals. Since 2016 it has blocked almost half a billion phishing emails using HMRC in the “from” address.

New technology has contributed to the strong response to scammers, reducing phishing texts by 90%.

Read our guide to spotting an HMRC phishing scam

Despite the success of HMRC’s anti-scam strategy, it has reiterated its warnings to tax payers of the tactics employed by fraudsters.

According to HMRC, the “tax refund” email and SMS is the most common type of scam targeting tax payers. HMRC has reminded business owners and sole traders that is does not offer tax refunds by text message or by email.

HMRC said:

“Genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact people out of the blue to ask for their PIN, password or bank details. So, people should never give out private information, download attachments, or click on links in emails and messages they weren’t expecting.”

Commenting on the action taken against fake HMRC websites, Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury, said: “The criminals behind these scams prey on the public and abuse their trust in government. We’re determined to stop them.

“HMRC is cracking down harder than ever, as these latest figures show. But we need the public’s help as well. By doing the right thing and reporting suspicious messages you will not only protect yourself, you will protect other potential victims.”

HMRC advises customers to:

  • Recognise the signs – Banks and HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details
  • Stay safe – Do not give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting
  • Take action – Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.ukand texts to 60599, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls or use its online fraud reporting tool
  • Check gov.uk for information on how to avoid and report scams and recognise genuine HMRC contact
  • If you think you have received an HMRC-related phishing/bogus email or text message, you can check it against the examples shown in this guide

Take a look at other HMRC content:

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and has previously worked as a content editor in local government and the ecommerce industry.

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