A CYBERCRIME expert has warned of a spate of scam messages and phone calls targeting Brits to steal their money.
Fraudster Charlie Shakeshaft told The Sun that crooks pose as tax officers to give people a false sense of security before blinding them.
They send emails, SMS, and WhatsApp messages to victims who aim to steal money or financial information from them.
Shakeshaft, the founder of the fraudulent website Individual Protection Solutions (IPS), is urging people to be extra vigilant in the coming weeks.
That’s because HMRC-related fraud is expected to increase in the run-up to the tax self-disclosure deadline at the end of the month.
During this time, HMRC sends millions of legitimate emails and texts to taxpayers – something scammers will use to their advantage.
Dozens of IPS members have already reported attempted fraud to HMRC. They are a popular form of attack as they are applicable to most people in the UK.
“Over the years a large number of members have brought HMRC fraud to our attention,” said Shakeshaft.
“Most adults are taxpayers and get messages from HMRC from time to time, so scammers are trying to take advantage of that familiarity.”
The scam messages are what are known as phishing attacks that lure victims to a website that appears to be operated by a trusted entity, such as a bank, social media platform, or other service.
However, the website is fake with fake content designed to trick a victim into entering sensitive information like a password or email address.
Alternatively, ignorant visitors can be asked to enter their credit card details or online banking access details.
On the phone, phishing attackers pose as employees of a trusted organization and try to convince you to give them your details.
Whether it’s through phone calls or fake websites, scammers often try to mimic HMRC’s messages to make them look authentic.
This is because victims are more likely to wire money to an institution they know and trust.
“HMRC fraud comes in all shapes and sizes, but there are two common techniques,” explained Shakeshaft.
“In one instance, the scammer, claiming to represent HMRC, offers the victim a tax refund and asks for their bank or credit card details to be sent to them.
“Of course they will then use the bank or credit card details to steal money from their victim.”
He added that the second common technique is for a scammer disguised as HMRC to claim that the tax authority is filing a lawsuit against you and that you need to make an immediate payment to stop it.
“The idea is that the victim pays the scammer directly — the whole story is made up,” Shakeshaft said.
In the year from August 2020 to July 2021, HMRC identified millions of cases of HMRC fraud.
They are particularly popular with scammers this time of year as the self-assessment deadline begins on January 31st.
“During this December to January period, HMRC sends 4 million legitimate emails and text messages so many UK citizens are not surprised to be receiving communications from HMRC at this time,” Shakeshaft said.
“It creates a useful smokescreen for scammers to pose as HMRC when trying to fool victims.”
To spot a fraudulent HMRC message or call, there are a number of telltale signs to look out for.
For example, the finance department will never email notifications of tax rebates or refunds with stated monetary amounts.