Watch out for ‘tax rebate’ scam text messages

Consumers are being warned to watch out for a convincing text-based scam offering tax rebates, after HMRC says it has stopped thousands of these messages from being sent to taxpayers.

According to data from HMRC, people are nine times more likely to fall for a text scam than other forms of approach, such as email, as they appear more ‘legitimate’.

The most common scam of this type involves fraudsters alleging to be HMRC sending a text message making false claims including suggesting the receiver is due a tax rebate. Messages often contain links to fraudulent websites that harvest personal data and spread computer viruses.

HMRC says it never contacts customers via text or email if they are due a tax refund. The government department began a program in April 2017 to eliminate such scam texts from reaching taxpayers’ phones and has largely claimed victory, saying there has been a 90 per cent reduction in reports of such fraudulent messages.

In the last year HMRC has also initiated the removal of 16,000 malicious websites, while technical controls have ensured more than 300 million emails purporting to be from HMRC have been prevented from reaching taxpayers.

The warning comes during ‘Take Five to Stop Fraud Week’ – a fraud prevention initiative backed by financial institutions and the government, which aims to raise consumers’ awareness of the need to watch out for scams.

HMRC’s director of customer services, Angela MacDonald, comments: ‘As email and website scams become less effective, fraudsters are increasingly turning to text messages to con taxpayers. But as these numbers show, we won’t rest until these criminals are out of avenues to exploit.

‘We have made significant progress is cutting down these types of crime, but one of the most effective ways to tackle it is still to help the public spot the tell-tale signs of fraud.’

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