“Phishing” is the practice of sending out emails, texts and even social media direct messages that pretend to be from a reputable source and try and get you to provide personal details that could be used to defraud you.
HMRC has become the unwitting dupe for many phishing expeditions because we tend to take extra notice of any form of communications from the taxman. Although many of the fake messages will be easy to spot, the fraudsters can be very sophisticated. We all need to be vigilant and look at for clues that something isn’t right.
So what rules do we need to follow to reduce the chance that we get had?
HMRC states that it “will never use texts or emails to tell you about a tax rebate or penalty or ask for personal or payment information.” So if you get such a message it is a fake. HMRC has published a listed of email addresses that look realistic but aren’t genuine. Always ignore the following addresses:
In addition it easy to fool email programmes and web browses into displaying a genuine email address in the From: field or as a link. Try rolling the mouse cursor over the email address and see what is displayed in the bottom left corner of your screen.
Check links in the body of the message, as described above, and don’t click on any link that clearly takes you to another site or seems suspicious. The linked pages may look like HMRC pages and encourage to enter information such as bank account details. Just as importantly don’t try and open attachments as this may download viruses or malware onto your PC or phone.
The potential for tax refunds is the biggest lure that fraudsters have over us at the moment. Not only emails, but text messages and telephone calls are using tax refunds as an excuse to try and get you to provide potentially valuable details. Remember that personal information such as date of birth, address, national insurance number etc. help con men to build up a profile of you. That profile could help them to get access to bank accounts or even steal your identity completely. HMRC never discusses tax refunds using email, text or calls.
There is more information about potential scams on the gov.uk website and contact details for you to report any attempted fraud.
If you have received any communication from HMRC that you aren’t sure about please feel to contact Lewis Smith & Co. for advice. We’ll be able to tell you immediately whether it is fine or fake.
Lewis Smith & Co. – Accountants for Kingswinford businesses.