"This is the most sophisticated and prolific phishing", said HMRC official 13 January 2009 – Fraudsters are targeting taxpayers in UK with thousands of scam emails in the run up to the 31st January Self Assessment tax deadline, HM Revenue & Customs has said.
HMRC also warned the public to be aware of further fraudulent attempts to obtain personal information after the 31st January deadline has passed when many people will be waiting to hear about genuine tax refunds.
The scams tell the recipient they are due a tax refund and ask for bank or credit card details so that the fictitious tax refund can be paid out. HMRC is also aware of a growing number of telephone scams with fraudsters posing as tax officials arranging rebate payments.
All customers who provide their details to the fraudsters risk their accounts being emptied and credit cards used to their limit. The victim also risks having their personal details sold on to other organised criminal gangs.
Lesley Strathie, HMRC Chief Executive said: "This is the most sophisticated and prolific phishing scam that we have encountered. We only ever contact customers who are due a refund in writing by post. We never use emails, telephone calls or external companies in these circumstances. I would strongly encourage anyone receiving such an email to send it to us for investigation."
HMRC is fighting back by thoroughly investigating such attacks and through co-operation with other law enforcement agencies in the UK and overseas a number of scam networks have been shut down – specifically in Austria, Mexico, USA, Thailand and Japan.
HMRC strongly advises that any email appearing to originate from HMRC and which offers a tax refund should be forwarded UNOPENED to [email protected]
You are also advised not to click on websites links contained in suspicious emails or open attachments. If in doubt, please check it out with HMRC at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/fraud-attempts.htm