TAXPAYERS should be wary of e-mails purporting to offer tax rebates, after a 47% surge in such phishing scams, HM Revenue & Customs has warned.
A record-breaking ten million tax returns were filed by last week's 31 January deadline, with around 8.5 million filed online.
In three months before the deadline customers reported 23,247 phishing emails to HMRC - up 47% on the same period a year earlier. During 2013, customers reported over 91,000 phishing emails to HMRC.
The con artists behind the e-mails attempt to deceive victims into disclosing their bank account, credit or debit card details. Typically, they request details such as the victim's name, address, date of birth, bank account number, sort code, credit card details, National Insurance number, passwords and mother's maiden name.
As a result of customers forwarding these e-mails to HMRC, the department was last month able to close 178 websites which it found were the source of these e-mails - up from 65 in January 2013. During 2013, HMRC closed down 1,476 websites sending these types of scam e-mails.
Head of digital security at HMRC Gareth Lloyd said: "HMRC never contacts customers who are due a tax refund via email - we always send a letter through the post.
"If you receive an email claiming to be from HMRC which offers a tax rebate, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete it permanently. We can, and do, close these websites down, and do all we can to ensure taxpayers stay safe online by working with law enforcement agencies around the world to target the criminals behind these scams."
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