By Jonathan London on 13th March 2014

How to spot fake HMRC emails

Have you received an email from HMRC recently asking for personal information? We’ve seen a spate of queries recently from concerned clients who have received fake HMRC emails, requesting they complete an attachment , or click a link in an email.

It’s important to point out straight away that HMRC will not request you provide personal or financial information via email.  These are called ‘Phishing’ emails.  If you do receive an email from HMRC, or any other source for that matter, which you believe is suspect, do not click any links or open attachments within the email as they could infect your hardware with viruses or malware, which could harm your equipment.

How to spot fake emails

Here’s a series of tips on how you can weed out those fraudulent emails:

1. Incorrect ‘From’ address

Emails you receive will often look as though they are from HMRC when they aren’t.  It’s important to remember that an email from HMRC will be in the form of ‘@hmrc.gov.uk’ – anything which does not follow this format will be a fake.

To make it more difficult, some fraudsters can mask this address to make it look as at though it is more authentic.  You can get around this by looking more closely at the ‘From’ section within the email itself.  Depending on which email service you use – look out for the reply to address which is next to the name of the sender (usually within brackets or arrows) – and double check to see what email address it has actually come from.

2. Requests for Personal Information

If the content within the email is asking for you to disclose personal information, whether it’s by clicking a link, or downloading an attachment – its a sure fire fake. HMRC will never ask you for personal or financial information by email.

3. Urgent requests

If there’s an urgent deadline mentioned within the email (i.e. a matter of hours or days), then it’s also likely to be a fake. People behind these emails use this language to encourage you to act immediately so they can obtain your information and run.

4.  Fake websites

We appreciate that it’s becoming more difficult to spot fake emails from authentic ones, but the same goes for if you end up clicking on a link and visiting a bogus HMRC website.  These sites will look strikingly similar to HMRC’s, and the more complex ones will even link to other HMRC pages.  Keep an eye on the web page address (it will be in the format www.hmrc.gov.uk/pagename), and don’t complete fields which request your personal or financial information.

Here’s a list of examples which have already been reported in order to help you spot fake HMRC emails.

Other things to watch out for

  • Personalisation – be wary of anything which doesn’t have your name included e.g. Dear Customer.  Whilst fraudsters have your email details, they won’t necessarily have your name.
  • Poor grammar & mistakes – this speaks for itself.  If it doesn’t read correctly and there are several mistakes, it’ll be a fake.
  • Attachments – this will likely contain viruses or malware to infect your PC with a view to obtaining information stored on your device. Don’t open attachments if you’re not aware of the source.

How you can help

If you believe you’ve received a fake email from HMRC, you can forward it onto them via phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and allow them to take action to follow up on the people who are fraudulently trying to obtain your information.

If you think you’ve been duped and have entered your personal information into a bogus website  or in reply to a suspect email (e.g. your HMRC ID, password or National Insurance number), you need to forward brief details to security.custcon@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk outlining the types of information you have disclosed.

Jonathan London Written by Jonathan London

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