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In 2015 there were 17,000 fraudulent or incorrect repayment claims to HM Revenue and Customs, potentially worth tens of millions - which resulted in HMRC being one of the most phished (subject to email attacks) brands in the world last year. 

The HMRC phishing attacks aren't a new phenomenon, but normally crop up in January and October when HMRC deadlines are approaching. There are a few ways you can check to see if the email or text message you are receiving is a fake. But if in doubt, always contact HMRC directly – details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/contact-hmrc

The “from” address

Always double check the senders “from” email address. Often fraudsters will use email addresses that look very similar to HMRC’s such as refunds@hmrc.org.uk. These email addresses are used to mislead you. When viewing an email on a mobile device, it is often harder to see the “from” address - always make sure to double check this before clicking on any links within the email, or acting upon any instructions.

Spelling and grammar

Quite often fraudulent emails will contain spelling and grammar mistakes, read through all emails carefully to spot errors.

Asking for personal information

HMRC will never notify you of a tax rebate, offer a repayment, ask you to disclose personal information (including your full address, post code, unique taxpayer reference or details of your bank account) via email. You will also never be asked for financial information, nor will emails have attachments (unless you’ve given prior consent and formally accepted the risks). HMRC will never provide links to login pages, or forms asking for information - instead they will ask you to log on to your online account, to check for information. 

A sense of urgency

Criminals will often ask for immediate action. Be wary of emails containing phrases such as you only have three days to reply, or ‘urgent action required’.

Common greetings

Hoaxers often send high volumes of phishing emails in one go, so even though they have your email address they very rarely have your name. Be cautious of emails with a generic greeting such as ‘Dear Customer’. Genuine HMRC emails will usually use the name you’ve provided and always include information on how to report phishing emails.

Basic digital safety

Basic internet safety measures like updating to the latest version of browsers, keeping passwords safe and changing them regularly, and having up-to-date anti-virus software are also advised to help prevent against phishing scams.