We conduct an incredible amount of business and personal processes online. In fact, we have come to a point where we are almost forced to use online services as it is advertised as being more convenient and safe and very often with a cheaper price as well. However, this is not always the case. I am sure that at some point in your online adventures you have received a notification to be aware of online phishing and email scams. Well it seems that even HMRC is now facing this dilemma. They recently released a statement warning citizens of these types of scams.
The shift to use online services has a correlating shift in the increase of online scams. The scams have a spectrum of sophistication depending on the designer of the scam and the intended target audience. It appears that UK tax payers are now prime targets of these frauds. HMRC has been notified of email scams in which bank account details and passwords are being requested. Many of these emails claim to be sent directly from HMRC so as to maintain authenticity. The level of cleverness has reached such a point that the email may direct the user to a false website that looks identical to HMRC’s actual site. Last year HMRC shut down 8,877 such fake websites with the support of other agencies - a 500% increase against 2013’s figures. HMRC’s statistics also claim that between April and July 2014 nearly 51,000 phishing scams were reported and they are now urging anyone who may have encountered a scam to contact them immediately. Unfortunately, with the increase of an online presence there is an increase in fraudulent behavior. At the moment there is no way to completely eradicate these scams however, the public can take precautions to minimize the chance of getting tangled in one.
Director General of Benefits and Credits, HMRC, Nick Lodge, said, “We have cracked down on phishing emails and scam websites, but the fraudsters’ methods are constantly changing, so people must remain vigilant.”
Individuals can protect themselves by providing all tax credit information on the www.gov.uk website directly through their web browser rather than clicking on a link sent by email. They should also be aware that HMRC will never ask the public to send any personal information by email. The final step one can take to protect themselves is to use their common sense and gut instinct. If you feel something does not sound truthful then contact the relevant authority to confirm this. Take care in submitting your tax credits this year and if you feel unsure about anything you can always contact a local tax agent to get a clarification.
HMRChas advice on recognising scam emails, and how to report them, on GOV.UK.