Attempts to steal the financial details of freelancers and other people who complete tax returns have doubled, in wake of a record number of taxpayers now using self-assessment.
In an alert on Friday, the taxman said that, in the three months leading up to the online self-assessment deadline of Jan 31, he had detected 23,247 phishing emails – up 47% on the same period a year earlier.
The increase in the malicious emails, which appear to have been sent by HM Revenue & Customs, are thought to reflect the step-up in the number of people covered by self-assessment – 8.48 million.
But HMRC’s advice remains the same -- avoid clicking on links and attachments to the message, which claim to offer a tax rebate in return for bank account or credit card details, send it to email@example.com, but then delete it.
Forwarding the email to HMRC allows the department to take action, such as closing down websites run by the conmen which generate them, 178 of which were taken offline in the last month alone, up from 65 last January.
The tax authority reminded that if a taxpayer is due a refund, they will receive a letter through the post -- as HMRC “never” contacts them about such a rebate via email.
If taxpayers have mistakenly responded to a bogus email, the Revenue says they should forward both the message and any details they revealed to firstname.lastname@example.org.