With the current national situation fraudsters are unfortunately using this to their advantage and various scams are being circulated.
E-mails stating a tax refund from HMRC due to changes in the law because of COVID-19, texts stating they “Have been fined” for leaving their homes two/three/four times, fraudulent communication supposedly from the World Health Organisation, NHS and private health suppliers selling facemasks and other personal protection equipment…..the list is rather long.
Barracuda Networks, a cyber-security company, undertook some research and found that Coronavirus-related phishing e-mails have increased by 667% since the beginning of March.
With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme now up and running phishing e-mail scams are being sent by fraudsters supposedly from HMRC with the intention, like many of stealing personal information.
The e-mail is sophisticated using the HMRC branding and supposedly from Jim Harra, first permanent secretary and chief executive of HMRC. On checking the address, it is from “firstname.lastname@example.org.” The aim being for business owners to provide bank account information. The website associated with this is in the process of being taken down.
HMRC have said “Fraudsters are taking advantage of the package of measures announced by the government to support people and businesses affected by coronavirus. Scammers text, e-mail or phone taxpayers offering spurious financial support or tax refunds, sometimes threatening them with arrest if they don’t immediately pay fictitious tax owed.”
To date HMRC has detected over 54 Covid-related financial scams, most being sent by text message. They have also asked internet service providers to take down more than 227 web addresses. Many “mimic government messages such as “Stay at home” and “Stay home, stay safe,” as a way of appearing authentic and unthreatening.”
A HMRC spokesperson said “If someone texts, e-mails or calls claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it’s a scam.”
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