Owners of small businesses, the self-employed and contractors are urged to take caution when handling their e-mails, as they are currently the prime target of a deceptive scam which has been escalating significantly over the last few weeks.
Targeted victims of the scam receive an e-mail disguised as an official letter from HMRC, which offers the recipient a tax refund of sorts, to be paid into their bank account. The victim, if deceived, is encouraged to provide personal information like bank details, which can be exploited by the perpetrators. This method of conning individuals out of personal information by masquerading as a respectable and trustworthy entity is known as ‘phishing’.
Fraud experts at Equifax rate phishing as a serious problem, and urge anyone who submits annual tax return forms to take caution.
Neil Munroe, External Affairs Director at Equifax, told Bytestart: “Fraudsters seem to be targeting tax payers around key deadlines and they are using the very enticing promise of tax refunds! Many of these emails can look very convincing for people who don’t know what to look for. But the crucial thing to remember is that HMRC would always notify individuals of tax refunds by post, rather than email or telephone.“
Employing good common sense and a modicum of caution will greatly help reduce the risks of being scammed. Those who suspect they are being targeted should delete the e-mail immediately, and never give out any personal information. Always ensure that you liaise with your Accountancy firm or Umbrella Company if you are unsure on what tax refund, if any, you should be expecting.