We regularly hear horror stories of people being scammed by fraudsters posing as legitimate organisations, including HMRC. Criminals also know how to maximise new technology and create very convincing dummy texts, letters, websites and emails.
What are HMRC doing about it?
HMRC launched a new strategy in April 2017 which focuses on fake text messages telling the recipient they have a tax rebate to collect. Cleverly, they have developed a technological answer that prevents these fraudulent messages reaching our inboxes. So far, HMRC report that the number of taxpayers getting in touch about fake text messages has fallen by 90% since the scheme started.
Why are these text messages dangerous?
The text messages themselves often contain links to either phishing websites which mine your personal details, or to websites which exist just to spread malware so they can hold you to ransom for your information at a later date. Once these criminals have your data, it becomes a very easy job to steal both your money and/or your identity.
How do I know it’s a fake text message?
The first thing to always bear in mind is that HMRC never use a text message, or an email, to inform you about your tax rebate. So any text message that tells you ‘to click on this link to find out what you are owed’ is not legitimate.
Another tell-tale sign is that no sender number is displayed, only “HMRC”, or something similar.
What about the websites and emails?
HMRC have focused on text messages for a reason, as explained by Angela MacDonald their Director of Customer Services, “As email and website scams become less effective, fraudsters are increasingly turning to text messages to con taxpayers”. But they have also managed to prompt the taking down of 16,000 criminal websites in just the last year. So, even if people click through from a fake text message, the destination website has disappeared.
As Ms MacDonald also said, “We have made significant progress is cutting down these types of crime, but one of the most effective ways to tackle it is still to help the public spot the tell-tale signs of fraud.”
We should celebrate HMRC’s successes here, they are working hard to keep taxpayers safe from online scammers. But criminals continually evolve to evade security protocols, so we have to take some responsibility for protecting our details. TRS advise all their clients to stay vigilant and think before you click. That extra few seconds of doubt could save you a lot of hassle and a lot of money.
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