Over the past 12 months, in HMRC’s pursuit of online fraudsters, it was reported that a record number of fake websites posing as HMRC have been deactivated. With the introduction of cutting-edge technology designed for tackling cybercrime, HMRC appears to have been successful with over 20,750 malicious websites having been taken down – a 29% increase from the previous year.

Mel Stride MP, the financial secretary to the Treasury, stated: “the criminals behind these scams prey upon the public and abuse their trust in government. We’re determined to stop them.”

 

Report scam attempts

The most common type of scam is the ‘tax refund’ email and SMS. Individuals receive emails and text messages claiming that HMRC owes them a tax rebate and all they must do is submit their account and personal details. HMRC urges the public to report these phishing attempts, as they never offer tax refunds by text message or by email. Mel Stride MP said:

“HMRC only informs you about tax refunds through the post or through your pay via your employer. All emails, text messages, or voicemail messages saying you have a tax refund are a scam. Do not click on any links in these messages, and forward them to HMRC’s phishing email address and phone number.”

People are encouraged to forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and texts to 60599. They can also contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls, or use its online fraud reporting tool.

 

HMRC timeline for tackling cybercrime

In November 2016, HMRC implemented an email authentication, reporting system, called Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC), which allows emails to be verified to ensure they come from a genuine source. It has stopped half a billion phishing emails reaching the public.

HMRC has also successfully saved the public more than £2.4m by blocking scammers from fooling the public into using premium rate phone numbers for services that HMRC actually provide for free.

Furthermore, since April 2017 HMRC has been trialling technology, which identifies phishing texts that claim to be from HMRC. This technology stops the texts from ever from being delivered. As a result, there has been a 90% reduction in reports of hoax texts.

 

HMRC is still warning the public to stay alert

Despite these reassuring strides being taken to target fraudsters and in tackling cybercrime, the public is still being cautioned to stay aware and be conscious of these scams. As Mel Stride reiterated,

“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.”

 

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