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Fraudsters are sending out thousands of bogus emails to try to trick taxpayers to give out their bank details in return for HM Revenue and Customs refunds.
HMRC fraud investigators are handling around 1,000 reports of scam email every day and close down 100 fraudulent web sites run every month.
The problem is escalating as the number of reports has surged by 300 per cent in the last 12 months.
The phishing emails look to come from HMRC but links lead to a clone of the tax man’s web site.
The page that opens asks for bank and credit card details – and if the information is handed over they quickly transfer any cash to their own accounts.
Personal details are also sold to other gangs who set up scams using the information to build false identities.
HMRC is urging anyone receiving an email about a tax rebate not to click through to a web site.
Details of known scam emails are published at www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/index.htm
Anyone receiving a scam email should forward a copy to email@example.com before deleting.
Joan Wood, Director of HMRC Online and Digital, said: “We only ever contact customers who are due a tax refund in writing by post. 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 them to us before deleting it permanently.
“The increase in reports is partly due to improved awareness of this scam. However, I have no doubt that more of these “phishing” emails are in general circulation than ever before.
“HMRC will do everything possible to ensure those 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 teamed with fraud investigators worldwide to combat the phishing attacks.
Scammers have had web sites closed in Austria, Mexico, South Korea, the USA, Thailand, Japan and the UK.
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