Officials warn of tax rebate scam

Telephone scam alert.
Telephone scam alert.

A warning has been issued about a scam e-mail which promises recipients a tax rebate – but could end up costing them thousands of pounds.

The message, which appears to be sent by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), directs recipients to a website where they are asked to fill in personal details to claim their cash. It also requests their debit or credit card numbers so the rebate can be paid electronically.

But, despite at first glance appearing authentic, the e-mail is actually the work of criminals and anyone who submits their bank card details is likely to find they will be used fraudulently.

John Bryce, 78, from Pegasus Grove, Bourne, received an e-mail last week beginning ‘Dear taxpayer, I am sending this email to announce that after the last annual calculation of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax return of £294.15 GBP’.

Mr Bryce was suspicious and contacted HMRC which confirmed it was fake.

He also reported it to Lincolnshire police.

Mr Bryce said: “The e-mail got through my spam filter and had my e-mail address on it, so I thought it could have been legitimate. But I was suspicious when asked for card details and decided to speak to HMRC to check its authenticity.

“When I reported it to the police in Bourne the woman on reception said she’d got one too.

“The worry is that those behind the scam may be targetting people in the town.”

Lincolnshire police said there was no evidence of criminals targetting a particular location, but a spokesman added: “It’s possible people are deleting them and not reporting it to us.”

ActionFraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, this week issued a warning after hundreds of people received fake e-mails and text messages purportedly from HMRC. To report a fraud and receive a crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

A spokesperson for HM Revenue and Customs said: “HMRC will never ask people to disclose personal information by responding to an e-mail or text message.

“If you receive a suspicious e-mail or text message which claims to be from HMRC, we recommend you send details to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk. We can close these websites down and we continue our efforts to work with law enforcement agencies around the world to bring down the criminals behind these scams.”