Ahead of the UK’s 31st January deadline for submitting tax returns, over 20,000 fake emails have been issued to tax-payers encouraging them to hand over their banking details.
Last year almost six million UK citizens opted to file their tax returns electronically, the overall number growing substantially year on year.
The rise in popularity of the UK Revenue & Customs (HMRC) online service aligns with the public’s increasing levels of confidence in sharing personal and private data via the web with a huge range of organisations including banks and government departments.
As online activity increases, so do the incidences of email ‘phishing’ scams.
Traditionally targeted at banking customers, computer users receive spoof emails, purporting to be from their financial services provider, encouraging them to provide details of their bank accounts and credit cards via realistic looking websites. Victims then find that their accounts have been emptied or credit-cards maxed out.
Now, phishing has hit the HMRC’s online Self Assessment service. The government department says over 20,000 fake emails have been issued in the last week alone. Despite shutting down several spoof operations in South America and the far east during the past twelve months, phishing attacks on UK tax-payers continue to rise.
A spokesman for the HMRC states that “We never use emails, telephone calls or external companies in these circumstances. We strongly urge anyone receiving such an e-mail to send it to us for investigation before deleting it,” as reported by the BBC.
HMRC goes on to warn taxpayers not to respond to the “phishing” e-mails. Those tax-payers who are due a refund will only be notified by post.
A huge upsurge in online activity is anticipated today as people try to hit the 31st January deadline in order to avoid £100 fines.