There is a continuing misuse of emails and SMS messages that purport to be from HMRC asking questions about your tax and encouraging recipients to part with their personal information and bank details.
HMRC have recently issued guidance, intended to help taxpayers decide if an email from the tax office is genuine. Here’s what HMRC have said on this topic:
As well as spelling mistakes and poor grammar, there are a number of things you can look out for to help you recognise a phishing/bogus email.
Incorrect ‘From’ address
Look out for a sender’s email address that is similar to, but not the same as, HMRC’s email addresses. Fraudsters often have email accounts with HMRC or revenue names in them (such as ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’). These email addresses are used to mislead you.
However, be aware, fraudsters can falsify (spoof) the ‘from’ address to look like a legitimate HMRC address (for example ‘@hmrc.gov.uk’).
If you’re not 100% sure that the message has come from us don’t open it. If you do open the email and you’re in doubt don’t click on any links or downloads.
Examples of phishing and bogus emails
Emails from HMRC will never:
- notify you of a tax rebate
- offer you a repayment
- ask you to disclose personal information such as your full address, postcode, Unique Taxpayer Reference or details of your bank account
- give a non HMRC personal email address to send a response to
- ask for financial information such as specific figures or tax computations, unless you’ve given us prior consent and you have formally accepted the risks
- have attachments, unless you have given prior consent and you have formally accepted the risks
- provide a link to a secure log-in page or a form asking for information – instead we will ask you to log on to your online account to check for information
Urgent action required
Fraudsters ask for immediate action. Be wary of emails containing phrases like ‘you only have 3 days to reply’ or ‘urgent action required’.
Fraudsters often include links to webpages that look like the homepage of the HMRC website. This is to trick you into disclosing personal/confidential information. Just because the page may look genuine, does not mean it is. Bogus webpages often contain links to banks/building societies, or display fields and boxes requesting your personal information such as passwords, credit card or bank account details.
You should be aware that fraudsters sometimes include genuine links to HMRC web pages in their emails, this is to try and make their emails appear genuine.
Fraudsters often send high volumes of phishing emails in one go so even though they may have your email address, they seldom have your name. Be cautious of emails sent with a generic greeting such as ‘Dear Customer’. Emails from HMRC will always:
- use the name you’ve provided to us
- include information on how to report phishing emails to HMRC
Be cautious of attachments as these could contain viruses designed to steal your personal information.
The message is clear. If in doubt, do not respond to these emails, and do not provide any personal information requested by email. You could always call a HMRC helpline to clarify if an email is genuine, or discuss the email with your professional advisor.