Figures published by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) show that 20,750 malicious websites have been taken down in the past 12 months – a 29 per cent increase when compared with the previous year.
Although it has introduced cutting-edge technology to tackle cyber-crime, HMRC is still warning the public to remain alert as the financial consequences for anyone who falls victim to such a site could be devastating.
Neither HMRC nor banks will ever contact people unexpectedly to ask for PIN numbers, passwords or other bank details.
Mel Stride MP, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “The criminals behind these scams prey upon the public and abuse their trust in Government.”
“HMRC is cracking down harder than ever, as these latest figures show. But we need the public’s help as well; by doing the right thing and reporting suspicious messages, you will not only protect yourself, but you will protect other potential victims.”
In addition to fake websites, HMRC is also warning of text message and email scams, which purport to be from the tax authority, offering refunds.
According to HMRC, these are the most common types of scam targeting taxpayers and it wants people to remember that it will never notify a taxpayer of a refund via these means.
An email verification system, which has been in place since November 2016, has reportedly already blocked half a billion phishing emails from reaching taxpayers.
Furthermore, HMRC is also trialling technology that detects text message scams and stops them being delivered. Since the pilot began in April 2017, there has been a 90 per cent reduction in people reporting fake HMRC-related texts.
Richard Dilley, Partner at George Hay, said: ““Businesses and individuals should always be vigilant of these scams. Falling foul to any one of these criminal operations could have catastrophic consequences.”
“Whilst HMRC continues to utilise the latest technologies in a bid to eliminate these scams, there will undoubtedly always be those who slip through the net.”
“If you’re unsure about any communications you receive relating to your accounts, finances or tax affairs, we would urge you to contact your usual adviser in the first instance.”
If you are the recipient of communications that you believe to be suspicious, HMRC advises you to:
- Know the signs – Banks and HMRC will not contact you unexpectedly to ask for PIN numbers, password or bank details.
- Stay safe – Do not disclose private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you were not expecting.
- Act – Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to firstname.lastname@example.org and texts to 60599. You can also contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report suspicious calls or use its online fraud reporting tool.
- Check GOV.UK for information on how to avoid and report scams and recognise genuine HMRC contact.
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