Have you ever received an email claiming to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) offering you a tax rebate? Julia did and she almost fell for it…
Julia told us: I received an email from HMRC saying it had identified an error in the calculation of my tax, resulting in an overpayment of £1,400. It then asked me to click on a ‘Refund me now’ link to claim my payment.
As much as I was excited about the prospect of such a large rebate, I thought it sounded a bit too good to be true. So I looked for all the common signs of a phishing email. It was from a genuine-looking ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ and looked like other emails I have received from HMRC. It also included other links on the right-hand side. I tested a few out and they all went through to the HMRC website.
However, I was still suspicious so contacted HMRC, which confirmed it was a scam – albeit a clever one that almost fooled me.
How to avoid ‘HMRC’ email scams
We say: You were right to be wary. HMRC has confirmed that it will never send notifications of a tax refund or ask you to disclose personal or payment information by email. If you are suspicious of an email purporting to be from HMRC, forward it to its specialist team to investigate at email@example.com.
It’s a widespread issue – 40% of respondents in our survey of 2,016 UK adults in January 2015 had received a phishing email claiming to be from HMRC in the past two years. Incidents are more common around the annual tax deadlines.
HMRC scam emails can take several forms, such as saying you’ve made a mistake on your self-assessment form or that your tax notice has been issued. Some even ask you to verify your identity by providing a copy of your passport!
We have more advice on how to avoid tax scams on our Consumer Rights website – have you encountered one of them?