HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has warned taxpayers to be vigilant of phishing emails after nearly 80,000 people received tax rebate scam emails last year.
HMRC today urged caution of emails that promise a tax refund in exchange for personal, credit card and banking details, and warned people who respond risk having their details sold on to organised, criminal gangs.
The government body said the emails often link to a clone of HMRC's genuine website to trick unsuspecting recipients to handing over their details, but confirmed it would never send emails about a tax rebate.
Last year, HMRC took action to close down 522 illegal sites, which showed emails originating in the USA, Russia, Japan and central and Eastern Europe.
Gareth Lloyd, head of digital security at HMRC, said: "We only ever contact customers who are genuinely due tax back in writing, by post.
"If anyone receives an email offering a tax rebate and claiming to be from HMRC, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org before deleting it permanently.
"HMRC does everything it can to ensure customers are safe online and we are working closely with other law enforcement agencies to target the criminals behind this serious crime."
HMRC said the scam email often begins with a sentence such as "we have reviewed your tax return according to our calculations of your last years accounts a tax refund of X is due".
To ensure you stay safe online, HMRC advises:
- Check the advice published at hmrc.gov.uk
- Forward suspicious emails to email@example.com and then delete from your computer
- Do not click on websites or links contained in suspicious emails or open attachments
- Follow advice published at getsafeonline.co.uk
- If you have reason to believe you have been victim of an email scam, report the matter to your bank/card issuer as soon as possible