Most people welcome the notification of a tax rebate from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Usually accompanied by a cheque for the amount of tax that has been overpaid throughout the previous financial year, this notification always comes in letter form sent through the post.
Seizing the opportunity to tempt unsuspecting taxpayers with a fake rebate, while ruthlessly gathering their personal information, online scammers send text messages and emails pretending to be from the HMRC.
Here CashLady looks at how to tell if a rebate email is legit or whether it’s a scam.
How to tell if your rebate email is legitimate
HMRC online security measures
HMRC will never notify you of a tax rebate by text or by email. It may, however, contact you using these communication channels for more general purposes, such as to remind you to complete your annual tax return.
Online security is a top priority for the tax authority as it deals primarily in financial information. As such, it will never share sensitive information, such as the amount of tax that you are due back, over a casual text message or email.
If you are ever required to log in to the HMRC online platform, to submit a tax return, for example, then notice the multiple levels of security required simply to access your account.
These include submission of a verification code that is first sent to you through the post.
Online email security measures
In 2017 the HMRC has also implemented a security technology called DMARC, standing for ‘Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance.’
The tool is an email authentication policy and reporting protocol, designed to help tackle phishing emails and reduced the number of attempts to scam taxpayers.
Unfortunately, many fake rebate emails are still sent out every day, with the HMRC taking serious steps to warn taxpayers how to spot them and encourage them to report them.
How rebate email scams work
HMRC rebate emails are basically phishing scams. Designed to trick you into handing over valuable personal and financial information, cybercriminals then use this information to steal your identity or drain your bank account.
Tantalising you with the promise of a rebate, these emails often look legitimate and contain a link or attachment leading you to a fake HMRC website. Here a pop-up will appear asking for details such as your name, address and full bank details.
Scammers are increasingly using sophisticated technology and tactics to manipulate you into parting with your hard-earned cash, so it’s becoming more difficult to spot legitimate communications from fake ones.
There are, however, some big clues that you should watch out for, indicating that your rebate email is nothing more than a scam.
You will never be notified of a rebate by email
This clue is a very big one. HMRC will never contact you by email to notify you about a rebate.
As soon as you receive such correspondence, simply do what HMRC asks and report into them by forwarding it on to firstname.lastname@example.org and then deleting it.
Do not open any links or download any attachments.
The email will come from a fake HMRC email address
If you need further proof that your rebate email isn’t legitimate, then check the email address.
Many scam email addresses are obvious, for example coming from a Hotmail or Gmail account. Others, however, are more believable and particularly good at luring internet users into a false sense of security.
HMRC has revealed some of the addresses it has identified as being used by cybercriminals, listed below.
Contacting HMRC about a tax rebate
If you believe that you are due a rebate then contact HMRC, using the correct information on its website and not the information supplied in a scam email or text message.
Contact them using these details if you are in any doubt about correspondence from them by any means, such as telephone, letter, text or email.
Check out the Government website that provides helpful examples of the types of emails and texts sent by cyber criminals pretending to be from the HMRC, and don’t hesitate to report anything suspicious directly to HMRC or to Action Fraud.