Manchester Accountant, MCC Accountants Ltd is advising clients to be extremely careful when dealing with HMRC payments and information online as new figures show that HMRC requested a record 20,750 malicious sites to be taken down in the past 12 months, an increase of 29% on the previous year.
With HMRC and Citizens Advice also highlighting that cyber criminals are targeting individuals in the hope of scamming them out of thousands of pounds of money, caution is crucial.
HMRC has said that is has “brought in cutting edge technology to tackle cyber-crime and target fraudsters, however the public needs to be aware and report phishing attempts to truly defeat the criminals.”
Key points to remember are that:
- Genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact people out of the blue to ask for their PIN, password or bank details.
- You must never give out private information, download any attachments or click on links in emails and messages that you are not expecting.
These communications may even appear from what looks like a trusted source, but scammers will do everything they can to disguise themselves.
To help in identifying criminal activity people have been asked to forward any suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to firstname.lastname@example.org and texts to 60599, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls or use their online fraud reporting tool.
Treasury Minister, Mel Stride MP, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said:
“The criminals behind these scams prey upon 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.”
Common Topics For HMRC Fraud
One of the most common type of scam is the ‘tax refund’ email and SMS. HMRC does not offer tax refunds by text message or by email.
In an effort to keep ahead of the criminals, HMRC has also been trialling new technology which identifies phishing texts with ‘tags’ that suggest they are from HMRC and stops them from being delivered. Since the pilot began in April 2017, there has been a 90% reduction in people reporting spoof HMRC-related texts. This innovative approach netted the cyber security team with the Cyber Resilience Innovation of the Year Award in the DL100.
In November 2016, the department implemented a verification system, called DMARC, which allows emails to be verified to ensure they come from a genuine source. The system has successfully stopped half a billion phishing emails reaching customers.
HMRC has also stated that they “saved the public over £2.4m by tackling fraudsters that trick the public into using premium rate phone numbers for services that HMRC provide for free. Scammers create websites that look similar to HMRC’s official site and then direct the public to call numbers with extortionate costs. HMRC has successfully challenged the ownership of these websites, masquerading as official websites, and taken them out of the hands of cheats.”
Help and Advice
MCC Accountants are more than happy to advise clients on potential HMRC scams and would ask any of their clients who think they have received a potential fraudulent communication to call either their head office or HMRC direct before they do anything that might lead to a financial loss.