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Taxpayers warned over refund email scams

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HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned taxpayers to be on their guard against fraudulent emails promising them a tax rebate.

Tax refund phishing scams are on the increase, and most often target smaller businesses, the self-employed and those who complete self-assessment tax returns.

The bogus emails attempt to persuade people to hand over confidential information with the promise of a tax rebate.

However, HMRC has said that it would not inform customers of a tax rebate via email, or invite them to complete an online form to receive a rebate of tax.

The fraudsters tend to be at their most active around important periods in the tax calendar.

Scams generally work by directing recipients to a web page that appears identical to the HMRC site with the inducement of a substantial tax refund.

The fake page is particularly misleading since it uses the same graphics and stylesheets as the actual HMRC site, the aim being to secure user IDs, passwords, names, addresses, bank and credit card details.

Stephen Alambritis of the Federation of Small Businesses said: “They are very plausible and at a time when businesses need all the cash they can get, the prospect of a tax rebate is attractive. It is very worrying. We have been surprised and worried by the way the scams are organised.”

Promises of a non-existent tax rebate are not the only scams being run by criminals pretending to represent HMRC and targeting small businesses in the hope of getting people to disclose details that would enable the fraudsters to gain access to bank or business accounts.

HMRC reiterated that although these emails may contain the HMRC logo and other details, they are fake and urged people never to respond to an email which asks for personal information. The tax authorities said that, while they may send emails from time to time, they would never do so requesting login, bank and credit card details.

HMRC has issued a series of pointers that will help people spot a fraudulent email. These include: the padlock – anyone logging on to HMRC Online Services is always in a ‘secure session’, shown by the padlock in the bottom right hand corner of the web browser; fraudulent emails are not normally addressed to someone personally, and they can be missing addressee details; look out for the name – HM Revenue and Customs was formed in April 2005 following the merger of Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise departments, and those former departmental names no longer exist; embedded links – since the email may include a link that leads to a website that appears genuine but is fake, hovering the mouse pointer over the link will show the real address to which the recipient is being directed.

Anyone who believes they have been sent a fraudulent email should report it to HMRC at

Fake email addresses used to distribute the tax rebate emails include: