If you're doing your tax return, there's a major threat you should be aware of


As you're doubtless aware, it's that time of year where those on self-assessment have to make themselves accountable to the taxman – and malicious parties are making the most of this with a massive surge in phishing emails.

As IT Pro reports, some 10 million folks in the UK are filling in their self-assessment tax return online these days, and the deadline is the end of the month.

And according to a new survey from MIRACL, no less than 40% of those people have received fake emails purporting to be from HRMC, phishing for their tax and personal details.

In theory, that's some four million people who are the potential victims of tax-related phishing – so be warned if you happen to receive any mails on the subject.

As ever, exercise your common sense with any electronic correspondence, and if any email is making a demand, think about what it's asking you to do and why.

The situation is so serious that HRMC itself has issued a warning to self-assessment taxpayers, stating: "As one of the most phished brands in the world, HMRC has a strict protocol in place to help customers protect themselves against email scammers.

"Scammers use this peak in online activity to carry out increasingly sophisticated frauds and to make their phishing emails appear genuine and relevant. Cyber criminals are likely to use the approaching 31 January deadline for Self-Assessment as a cover for their scams."

HRMC notes that if it does send an email to a taxpayer, it will never ask for any personal or financial information of any kind – and it will never include links or attachments, or an offer of a refund, or a personal HRMC email address to respond to.

The tax office also advises all the usual precautions – running antivirus software, keeping your browser fully up-to-date, using secure passwords and changing them regularly. Check out this HRMC web page for more advice.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).