Customs has become a common feature of the calendar period between April and July, when tax credit renewals are due.
However, another increasingly common warning from HMRC has also made its now-regular appearance, as tax credit claimants have been warned not to fall for ‘phishing‘ scams, a kind of email spam attack.
These emails typically suggest that the recipient may be entitled to receive some money, and link to a website that purports to allow you to claim this money by providing the site with your debit or credit card, or bank account details.
As a consequence of providing these details – which, of course, go to the scammers and not to HMRC – you may find funds taken from your account, or in the worst cases could fall victim to identity fraud from organised criminal gangs.
It may sound like an extreme possibility, but last year almost 22,000 reports of phishing attacks were received by HMRC between April and July alone, during the tax credit renewals period.
Nick Lodge, director general of benefits and credits at HMRC, says: “HMRC will never ask you to disclose personal or payment information by email. We are committed to your online security but the methods fraudsters use to obtain information are constantly changing, so you need to be alert.”
The best ways to avoid falling victim to one of these scams are all relatively easy, and can include:
- check the website URL and compare it with the real HMRC website – if there are any differences, do not trust it.
- never follow links from unexpected emails, without checking that they lead you to the correct site.
- check that the displayed text of the link is actually the address it links to – if something else appears in your browser’s status bar when you point to the link, do not click it.
- never give payment details out in response to an HMRC email, as they will never contact you by email to offer you money.