HM Revenue & Customs has renewed its warning for the public to remain alert to the risks of online scams, which usually involve fake emails and texts.
In the past year, HMRC has requested a record 20,750 malicious sites be shut down, compared to 16,069 between June 2016 to May 2017 - a rise of 29%.
During the 2017/18 financial year, the tax authority also had to deal with almost 1 million phishing referrals. To help combat this rising wave of digital crime, HMRC has also been trialling new technology which identifies phishing texts with ‘tags’ that suggest they are from HMRC and stops them from being delivered.
Since the launch of the pilot in April 2017, there has been a 90% drop in the number of people reporting bogus HMRC-related texts. The most common scam is the ‘tax refund’ email and text message. HMRC does not offer tax refunds by SMS or email.
HMRC has also said it is using the verification system, domain-based message authentication, reporting and conformance (DMARC), which allows emails to be verified to make sure they come from an authentic source. Since its introduction in November 2016, the system has successfully stopped half a billion phishing emails reaching their targets.
Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “HMRC is cracking down harder than ever, as these latest figures show. But we need the public’s help as well. By doing the right thing and reporting suspicious messages you will not only protect yourself, you will protect other potential victims.”
HMRC has also saved the public more than £2.4 million by tackling scammers who fool the public into using premium rate phone numbers for services the authority offers for free. Fraudsters build websites that look like the official HMRC site and then direct the public to call numbers with extortionate costs.
By working with the National Cyber Security Centre, HMRC plans to further this work and extend the benefits beyond its own customers.
If you receive a suspicious email claiming to be from HMRC, forward it to [email protected] and texts to 60599.
You can also contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls, or use its online fraud reporting tool.