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Phishing Scams: Beware of bogus tax refunds

Phishing Scams: Beware of bogus tax refunds

Category: Money

Updated: 10/02/2014
First Published: 10/02/2014

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Paying the tax bill will always be a dreaded task, so when consumers receive an offer of a rebate it's no wonder they jump at the chance of claiming it.

However, taxpayers need to be wary of such claims, as many are not genuine and can lead to people revealing personal details, leaving them vulnerable to fraud.

Phishing emails are one such scam, and they are on the increase according to HMRC. These bogus emails often request details of your bank accounts and credit cards, claiming you will receive a tax refund in return.

HMRC has reported receiving 23,247 of these phishing emails in the three months leading up to the recent tax return deadline (January 31), and this figure is shockingly up 47% on the previous year.

These emails often contain a link to a bogus website, which then asks you to fill in personal details including passwords, account details, date of birth and national insurance numbers, to name a few.

On the case, HMRC shut down 178 websites connected to scams last month, compared to just 63 in January last year – representing a 173% increase.

HMRC head of digital security Gareth Lloyd said: "HMRC never contacts customers who are due a tax refund via email – we always send a letter through the post.

"If you receive an email claiming to be from HMRC which offers a tax rebate, please send it to and then delete it permanently. We can, and do, close these websites down, and do all we can to ensure taxpayers stay safe online by working with the law enforcement agencies around the world to target the criminals behind these scams."

A few handy hints to help you keep your details safe

  • Do not click on links from emails, instead close and reopen your browser and then type the address of the website you want to visit into the address bar.
  • The email addresses many of these scammers use will be very similar to the official one in order to mislead you. There is a list of examples on HMRC's website.
  • Always be wary of downloading any attachments as these may contain viruses.
  • Look out for tell-tale signs such as bad grammar and spelling, generic greetings such as "Dear Customer" and urgent messages such as "three days to reply."

Just remember, HMRC will never ask for personal details over email and if you feel there is anything suspicious about an email you receive, go with your gut instinct, treat it as a scam and send it to HMRC to deal with.

Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.