HMRC delivers fraud warning after shutting down 10,000 sites

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With many people in the UK needing to file their annual tax returns, scammers will have their hands full trying to trick these people into giving away their money, a new HMRC warning has said. 

The risk has gotten so bad that HM Revenue and Customs is issuing a warning to citizens urging them to be careful when receiving emails and phone calls related to their taxes.

HMRC revealed that between August 2021 and 2022, it has gotten more than 180,000 complaints from citizens saying they received a suspicious email or phone call, claiming to be from the service. Of that number, the agency responded to more than 55,000 suspicious phone calls, and took down more than 10,000 malicious websites. Some 50 phone numbers used to engage in fraud were also taken out. 

Numerous risks

“Fraudsters target customers when they know they are more likely to be in contact with HMRC, which is why self-assessment customers should be extra vigilant to this activity,” the department said. 

“There is a risk they could be taken in by scam texts, emails or calls either offering a ‘refund’ or demanding unpaid tax, thinking that they are genuine HMRC communications referring to their self-assessment return. Some customers who have not done a self-assessment return previously might be tricked into clicking on links in these emails or texts and revealing personal or financial information to criminals.”

There are many ways scammers can use the tax return season to scam people out of their money. In some cases, they’ll claim the victims are eligible for a rebate payment. In others, they’ll threaten them with jail over alleged tax evasion. This is something HMRC representatives would “never do”, the agency said. 

“To protect the public, HMRC formally disputes and takes ownership of HMRC-branded internet domain or website names,” the department said. “Since 2017, the department has recovered more than 183 websites hosting low-value services such as call-connection sites, saving the public millions of pounds.”

Via: Public Technology

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.