Scams growing as tax deadline looms

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A record 83,000 scam emails offering fake tax refunds were reported to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in September. What’s more, use of the technique, known as phishing, seems to be growing in the run-up to the 31 October deadline for paper self-assessment tax returns, with an unprecedented 10,000 reports of the fraud made to HMRC on one day alone.

The scam tells the recipient they are due a tax refund and asks for bank account or credit card details. The criminal gangs behind it move fast with the different websites sending the emails, operating for just 20 minutes before the domain name alters. “We only contact customers who are due a refund in writing by post,” said John Harrison, the head of HMRC’s customer contact. “We never use emails, telephone calls or external companies in these circumstances. I would strongly encourage anyone receiving such an email not to open it, send it to us for investigation at and then delete it.”

HMRC added that it is taking action to disrupt the bogus websites and, with other law enforcement agencies in Britain and abroad, several scam networks have been shut down.

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