HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is warning taxpayers not to fall victim to 'phishing' emails sent out by fraudsters in the run-up to the self-assessment deadline of 31 January.
The email tells the recipient they are due a tax rebate, and provides a link to a clone of HMRC's website where the recipient is asked to give their credit card or bank details.
Fraudsters then try to take money from the account using the details provided, with victims running the risk of having their bank accounts emptied and their personal details sold on to other organised criminal gangs.
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 a tax refund of XXXX is due'.
HMRC said that it never asks people for their credit or debit card details.
The department has made a concerted effort to thwart fraudsters, with 185 websites that were responsible for sending out fake tax rebate emails shut down in the last three months.
"We only ever contact customers who are due a tax refund in writing by post," said Joan Woods, director of HMRC Online and Digital.
"We currently don't use telephone calls, emails or external companies in these circumstances.
"If anyone receives an email claiming to be from HMRC, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org before deleting it permanently.
"HMRC will do everything possible to ensure those people receiving this email know what steps to take to protect their information, and we are working closely with other law enforcement agencies to target the criminals behind this serious crime and see them brought to justice."
HMRC has issued the following advice for customers:
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