The tax authority HMRC is one of the most common brands fraudsters use in their “phishing” schemes. The word is a homophone of “fishing,” as people will fish for personal information using bait. Often, this bait is a fake prize (something along the lines of “enter your details to win the latest iPhone!”). Fraudsters pretending to be HMRC are contacting taxpayers to offer tax refunds.
Since many people submit their tax returns at this time of year, they may be expecting a tax refund. This makes such text message scams more believable. Taxpayers might not suspect a message of being fake when it displays HMRC as the sender instead of a number. Those eager to claim their refund could click links and give out their details without realizing the consequences.
Don’t Fall For Text Message Scams
According to HMRC, people are nine times more likely to believe a text message scam than an e-mail. The volume of fraudulent text messages making false claims is growing. Usually, they will say that the recipient is entitled to a tax rebate. They will then include a link, which will lead to a website which encourages the person to provide bank details and other sensitive information. In some cases, clicking the link will download malicious software onto the device. This malware can spread to systems they connect to, which is bad news for personal or business devices.
Either way, the fraudsters will harvest your data and use it to commit theft. They can use your information to steal money from you or use your identity for criminal purposes. Another scam aiming to do this targets vulnerable and elderly people. Scammers call them pretending to be HMRC and threaten to file a lawsuit against them if they don’t pay up. These people may be too afraid to question the harassers, so they hand over money they don’t actually owe.
How is HMRC Handling These Scams?
HMRC participates in an ongoing campaign named Take Five to Stop Fraud. It’s easy to panic when an organization tells you that you owe money, or not think twice when they offer money to you. However, Take Five encourages people to take a few moments to really think about it. Don’t just take an e-mail, text message, or phone call at face value. Genuine organizations would never suddenly contact you asking for personal information. Never give out your details or your money without verification!
In the last year, HMRC claims that they blocked 90% of scam text messages. HMRC also took down 16,000 fraudulent websites. Even if somebody received a text, the linked website would likely be gone. As well as these texts and e-mails, HMRC says they blocked 300 million phishing e-mails. If you receive an e-mail, text, or phone call like this, forward the details to HMRC then delete it if possible. You can contact HMRC about phishing scams at firstname.lastname@example.org.