HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has announced that 180 websites that send scam emails to taxpayers have been shut down over the past three months.
The “phishing” emails promise recipients a tax refund in return for details of their bank accounts and other personal information.
The promise is, in fact, bogus, and the criminals use the details they cull from the scam either to empty victims’ bank accounts or to commit ID fraud.
However, HMRC also warned that fraudsters have now begun cold calling potential victims.
Using a non-existent tax rebate as the lure, they ask for bank card details over the phone.
Chris Hopson, director of customer contact at HMRC, said: “We only ever contact customers who are due a tax refund in writing by post. We never use telephone calls, emails or external companies in these circumstances. We strongly urge anyone receiving such a phone call not to give any information to the caller, but report it to the police straightaway.
“If customers receive an email claiming to be from HMRC, we recommend they send it to us for investigation before deleting it permanently.”
HMRC advises advises customers to check the advice published at www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/index.htm to see if the suspect email is listed there.
People should forward suspicious emails to HMRC at firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete it from their computer and mail account.
They should not click on website links contained in suspicious emails or open attachments.