/ Scams

Scam alert: Government grant phishing attempts

A fake email purporting to be from HMRC is circulating, telling people they’re eligible for a ‘government grant’. Here’s a copy so you know what to watch out for.

26/01/20: ‘Lockdown support plan’ grants

Fake GOV UK communications continue to circulate, with a dodgy ‘lockdown support plan’ text now attempting to catch people out:

Fortunately most web browsers, such as Google Chrome in this example, will recognise that the URL is a phishing attempt and provide a warning:

Despite these warning messages, it’s still worth treating any email or text you receive out of the blue with suspicion.

Beware of bogus links relating to the pandemic and follow the advice we’ve provided in our vaccine scam warning, which will help you identify fraudulent messages.

02/10/20: fake HMRC emails

Any email that makes it past a spam filter may catch someone off guard, especially when its faked branding is slick and familiar to the recipient.

That’s exactly the case with this phishing email, which states that ‘you are eligible to make a claim for a second and final grant’:

This is yet another scam using GOV.UK branding attempting to steal your bank details and/or other personal information.

More fake government emails

Much like the council tax scam email we covered back in May, it’s also designed to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic.

An HMRC spokesperson said:

“Criminals are taking advantage of the package of measures announced by the government to support people and businesses affected by coronavirus.

Scammers text, email or phone taxpayers offering spurious financial support or tax refunds, sometimes threatening them with arrest if they don’t immediately pay fictitious tax owed.

HMRC has detected 130 COVID-related financial scams since March, most by text message. We have asked Internet Service Providers to take down more than 144 web pages associated with these scam campaigns. 

Several of the scams mimic government messages as a way of appearing authentic and unthreatening.

If someone texts, emails or calls claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks for credit card or bank details, it might be a scam. Check GOV.UK for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact. 

We have a dedicated Customer Protection Team in our Cyber Security Operations and work is always ongoing to identify and close down scams”

Aside from the unrelated email address this scam has arrived from, there’s a lot about it that could make you think it’s genuine; the subject line even includes a reference number, while the general look and feel mimics legitimate emails and the text is generally clear.

But if you do click through on the link, you’ll be taken to a fake website where you’ll be asked to hand over sensitive information.

Spotting phishing scam attempts

With criminals attempting to take advantage of the current global situation, it’s more important than ever that you carefully check over any emails you receive out of the blue, especially when they’re encouraging you to provide personal data.

Our guide on how to spot a scam email can help cover the basic checks you need to do, while all the scams we’ve covered here on Which? Conversation are worth a read to show the different techniques involved in a phishing email.

If you’re unsure, contact the organisation or brand involved directly via its official channels. You can find HMRC’s here.

You can also report phishing to HMRC on phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and 60599 for texts.

Have you received this fake HMRC email? Have you had any others lately? Let us know in the comments.


Comments

It is wrong to make the banks refund this money to people who don’t take proper precautions – the rest of us have to make this up somehow.
There is ample warning out there by now that we all have to be very careful with scammers – yet some people are very careless and then expect the rest of us to fork out for their carelessness.
The banks are not using their own money – they are using money paid in by other customers who ARE being careful.
This kind of thing cannot carry on. Everyone has to start being more careful and Which has to accept that the banks are not some kind of cash cow to refund people who do not take adequate precautions.
If people are not safe to be left in charge of their finances then they will have to hand them over to someone who is.
would you give out money to someone who knocked on your front door and said they were HMRC? or Morgan Stanley or whoever? where does all this end?
the internet didn’t start fraudulent behaviour it has just made it easier to transfer large amounts of money – if some people are not able to handle that then they have to stand back and transfer that responsibility to accountants, lawyers or trusted relatives or whoever who can.

I heard someone whining on the radio the other day that they were excluded from society because they didn’t have a smart phone or a computer and couldn’t manage the internet. But that is a choice! smart phones/tablets are very cheap. courses are widely available as are libraries. nearly everyone must have relatives, friends, neighbours who are internet savvy or who would help out – there is really no excuse if you really want to learn!
And it is hardly difficult to manage a few basic principles to get on google or look at the BBC – leave online banking out of it.

Luddites have no place in the 21st century. if they want to inhabit a cave in Wales that is their choice.
But it is idiotic to moan that you don’t have a computer and don’t know how to use one – what do you expect? That the rest of the world will revert to the 18th century to accommodate you?

if there is a will there is a way – but clinging to antediluvian ideals and expecting the world to accommodate you is not going to work. and we are not doing anyone any favours by supporting their delusions in this way.
but clearly separate online surfing from security issues like banking and make sure people are aware of the risks involved and delegate if they are not 100% certain they are safe.
there is no reason the rest of us should be underwriting the risk while this subset of people muddle their way through gifting the proceeds to scammers who then get away scott free.

it would even pay to have a safety net of lawyers/accountants just to process the transactions of this group to make sure they are safe and make sure their transactions are safe – say 1% fee. would pay for itself easily. but no doubt everyone would be up in arms saying it would impinge on freedom and liberty of people to send their money to robbers and scammers if they see fit.

Banks shouldn’t be using the internet
It’s a crooks paradise and a gift to terrorists and other criminals.
The internet is a money making scam and the biggest waste of time known to man.
It is not a step forward but a step backwards. Things worked fine for thousands of years without it.
It is a way of controlling the masses as in Big Brother.
It is killing many jobs. Businesses get you to do their work for them but prices still stay high.
The equipment you need for the internet, smart phones, tablets, computers, printers etc. are anything but cheap and they constantly have to be updated causing massive waste and pollution.
The internet is the work of the devil.

Ian – You are entitled to your opinion but without the internet there would be no Which? Conversation on which you could give us your views. I don’t regard reading your comments as “the work of the devil”.

Ian: just a thought but if it’s that dreadful, why do you use it?

The danger with the internet is, as we become more reliant upon it by constantly tuning in to the collective mind, you can lose your sense of self in it to the extent you can become like it, i.e devoid of all emotion and feelings such as compassion and empathy for the ‘not so savvy” in society.

You need to keep a balance to avoid becoming addicted to it by creating a space in your mind and staying consciously aware the computer is an object to be used and not worshipped.

People make mistakes and evolve when things go wrong by learning from them – it’s called life.

Geoff says:
28 January 2021

You are wrong, the banks should pay recipient’s back, the bank should have more sophisticated software to prevent their clients being scammed, and the banks giving clients how to keep safe on line, especially the elderly. Geoff

What planet are you on?

Spot on Paddy. A 1% fee would probably encourage people to learn to use the internet.

Glenn says:
29 January 2021

I too detest the internet. I use it for the same reason I use Virgin Media. Virgin are the ONLY provider offering Netflix in the North East. Their service is appalling and the automated system stinks. I do not possess a mobile i phone. But without a laptop I cannot even order medication.

Jen says:
2 April 2021

Glenn . Netflix is a platform downloaded through any internet connection. You have a choice of provider and Virgin Media are one of the most expensive

Friday afternoon recently, I had a call from a company (GENMAR LTD.) who said they had a internet site – when questioned, (ges energy co uk – could be gef energy co uk). both unobtainable, when I searched the internet. I prodded a bit further.
The caller said, that the installer of my electric-generating panels on the roof had gone ‘bust’, and the indemnity company (for 25 years), needed to check the installation, and had appointed his company to do the checking. They didn’t need to check the roof, they wanted to check the internal fittings, wiring etc.,
On an internet search I found one company using the name Genmar, and speaking to them – they had had several ‘funny’calls regarding roof panels and as their company was in the IT and computer trade. Nothing to do with roof generating panels.
GENMAR made a an appointment to view, but never turned up.

I questioned the installer, and the indemnity company further, neither had heard about this company.

I formed the opinion that they wanted entry to the house, and while one of them kept you talking or asking for a drink of water the other would be ransacking the draws upstairs. BEWARE ! ! !

Frank said here
Further to my last comment (given here), that what I thought was a scam. The company “GENMAR Ltd,.” has been in touch again. They say their internet address is “cesenergy.com”, not “. . . . co.uk”. (their error).
Therefore I with draw my opinion I was wrong, I fully apologise to the company, and regret for alleging they were a scam.

Hi Frank,

I think you need to be very careful here.

A company called Genmar Energy was dissolved in February 2020.
https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/04202813

There is a company called Ges Energy Consulting Limited
https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/09640143/officers
They don’t seem to have a real trading address.

There is another company called GES Global Energy Services.
http://www.services-ges.com/

I have recently had calls from some Green Deal outfit that I treat as a scam. They want to inspect my loft insulation that was installed under the government scheme as there might be condensation.

‘Matthew’ sounds very convincing except that we bought and installed our loft insulation. He has called me every couple of months for probably 2 years now, firstly to get me to take up the government offer and now to get it inspected. I have told him we already have loft insulation and to take me off his database, but he persists.

I think you need to treat this the same way unless you get real proof in the post of who these people are. If they are genuine, they will have your address but don’t give it to them.

If you have any other names, post them here and I will see if I can help further.

If you know the phone numbers you were called from, google them to see if they give you any further information.

A good site is:
https://who-called.co.uk/

Some more information:
https://www.scam-detector.com/article/solar-panels-fraud/

https://180info.co.uk/number/07510878749

Same phone number, yours is probably different.
https://who-called.co.uk/Number/07510878749

Same number with a report of installer going into insolvency 2 years ago.
https://www.unknownphone.com/phone/07510878749

Another one similar to yours:
https://who-called.co.uk/Number/01202509434
Positive comments can be from scammers so take them with a pinch of salt.

Martin Marks says:
29 January 2021

“Andrew”, another “Mathew”, was operating in the Gosport area in mid Jan. Called at the door with a badge and yellow waistcoat/jacket and then phoned – re at first cavity wall insulation and then follow up to inspect for condensation in the loft. “I can have a team around this afternoon”. There is a similar official scheme but the local council have confirmed they have not authorised any company. https://www.leeresidentsassociation.co.uk/ “Another scam”
Big danger is that he sounds[Moderator: this website appears to be a scam website. We’ve retained the URL to help you identify it, but we’ve redirected the link to our guidance on how to spot fraudulent website. ] very believable and is persistent.

G.Moŕris. says:
29 January 2021

I had a similar call but when I started to interrogate the caller about technical matters relating to the panels he put the phone down. Have had no more calls.

Frandjac
Further to my last comment (given here), that what I thought was a scam. The company “GENMAR Ltd,.” has been in touch again. They say their internet address is “cesenergy.com”, not “. . . . co.uk”. (their error).
Therefore I with draw my opinion I was wrong, I fully apologise to the company, and regret for aledging they were a scam.

Hi Frank,
Please see my reply on the previous page.

I get or have had quite a number of the scams mentioned and thinking about it I probably get a couple a week. I tend to look at it as part of everyday living and only report it when it is something new or interesting

Banks have closed branches saving money on staff, premises etc. Customers are encouraged to have internet accounts. and If there are no branches, people are forced to use the internet putting them at risk of scammers. The elderly are particularly vulnerable as many are not computer literate and niaive when dealing with scams. The banks have a responsibility as it is they who have put their customers in this position.

Jan – It’s far from clear whether the banks closed branches and forced customers to transact elsewhere, or whether the convenience and speed of new technology drove their customers elsewhere. As usual it’s probably a bit of both.

It is particularly hard on the elderly but my guess – based on the comments made to Which? Conversation over the last ten years – is that younger people are just as prone to be caught by scams and just as likely to have difficulty navigating the internet to avoid the rocks and rogues as those in the older generations. Indeed, many elderly people, with more time at their disposal and a lifetime’s experience, are dab hands on the web and wouldn’t get caught by some of the tricks that make a roaring trade out of fake sunspecs. Indeed, I suggest that if criminals had to depend on the elderly for their ill-gotten gains their pickings would not be rich.

An interesting finding from the research recently undertaken by Which? – and the basis for this Conversation [see the Intro] – is as follows:

We found that younger Facebook users identified as both more persuadable and more likely to engage in riskier behaviours. This implies that, despite older people stating they are more concerned about the risk of scams, younger social media users may be more susceptible to falling victim“. [Connecting the world to fraudsters? Protecting social media users from scams: Which? policy research report October 2020]

I have just received this grant email, but by text to my phone. Beware

Lee Holmes says:
12 November 2020

Just received this email purporting to be from HMRC Gov.uk stating I’m eligible for a payment of £3750 being self employed, I’m 70yrs old and never been self employed. Total scam

Hi ,my name is Gabi today I received a text message from a phone number like they are from Gov uk and I’m eligible for covid grant, they send it a link (government-onlinegrant.com/HMRC)I went through and because I thought is legit I put all my bank detail on the form .What should I do next .After I have done that I was thinking something is not quite right and I change my details on the bank site.They can still steal my money ??.Thank you

Get onto your bank branch and tell them what has happened do this asap and hopefully the bank can freeze your account until you and the bank can sort out what is going on, please do this as soon as you can. Regards Tom.

Gillian McLarnon says:
10 December 2020

Just received this e mail today

Mrs Janet Collier says:
10 December 2020

It is not just emails operating this scam. I received a very convincing letter from LCS (www.icsdr.com) telling me they were working on behalf of HMRC and asking me to contact them to pay the outstanding amount on my self-assesment of £190.57.
Nearly fell for it.

Last week I had a telephone call saying I should get in touch with HMRC and if I didn’t I would go to jail Gwen youv’e never seen a phone go down as quickly
In your life

Can’t understand why I t items don’t come with a User’s lnstruction Book. Would beneifical to manufacturers & purchasers alike. When you get the best use out of something you usually go on to make a replacement & or further purchases of the same brand.

Quentin says:
29 January 2021

The advice from the banks and other financial institutions has always been “If it looks too good to be true, then it usually is”, but what happens if it’s a scam and it looks orthodox, i.e. without outlandish growth?

In 2016, the police unearthed a criminal ring that had developed an algorithm that simulated the realistic growth of a stock-market investment, which was being licenced out to thousands of criminal enterprises. The police wanted to inform and warn the public to be extra-vigilant, but the high street banks paid off the Fleet Street newspapers, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and a number of mainstream internet news outlets to keep the story suppressed.

Alanha Calver says:
29 January 2021

HMRC don’t send out emails

Sarah says:
29 January 2021

Received an automated phone call last week saying I had committed a criminal offence, from a mobile number. I’m afraid I have no more details as I hung up, it seemed obvious to me that it was a scam.

I’m now receiving TEXTS purporting to be from HMRC, stating I’m eligible for a tax rebate and inviting me to confirm my details.

Sue Lewis-Jones says:
30 January 2021

I have just received a text purporting to be from HRMC saying I’m entitled to a rebate . I have not clicked on it
The phone is +44 7956 987302 who do I report it to

Gail Barry says:
3 February 2021

I’ve been bombarded by scam phone calls that have me laughing, a robot says HNRC has an arrest warrant on you as you haven’t paid up, press button 1 to get help, if that was genuine I’d be legging it for the next plane out of the country, but I did report it to the police as some people might believe it

I have just had a call to say my NI number has been compromised. This is definitely a scam