The latest Clay Shaw Butler Money Matters column from the Carmarthenshire Herald
The latest Clay Shaw Butler Money Matters column from the Carmarthenshire Herald.
By Mark Jones, director of Carmarthen-based Clay Shaw Butler chartered accountants and business consultants.
The taxman at HMRC has updated the guidance to taxpayers on how to spot so-called ‘phishing’ scam emails.
Phishing is the fraudulent act of emailing a person in order to obtain their personal/financial information such as passwords and credit card or bank account details.
These emails often include a link to a bogus website designed to encourage the unwary to enter their personal details.
The HMRC guidance is designed to help taxpayers to recognise genuine contact from HMRC, and how to tell when an email/text message is phishing and/or bogus.
You can find the advice on the following weblink –
The advice includes tips on how to tell if an email is fraudulent -
As well as spelling mistakes and poor grammar, there are a number of things you can look out for to help you recognise a phishing/bogus email.
Look out for a sender’s email address that is similar to, but not the same as, HMRC’s email addresses. Fraudsters often have email accounts with HMRC or revenue names in them (such as ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’). These email addresses are used to mislead you. However, be aware, fraudsters can falsify (spoof) the ‘from’ address to look like a legitimate HMRC address (for example ‘@hmrc.gov.uk’). If you’re not 100% sure that the message has come from HMRC, don’t open it. If you do open the email and you’re in doubt don’t click on any links or downloads.
Emails from HMRC will never:
- notify you of a tax rebate
- offer you a repayment
- ask you to disclose personal information such as your full address, postcode, Unique Taxpayer Reference or details of your bank account
- give a non HMRC personal email address to send a response to
- ask for financial information such as specific figures or tax computations, unless you’ve given us prior consent and you have formally accepted the risks
- have attachments, unless you have given prior consent and you have formally accepted the risks
- provide a link to a secure log-in page or a form asking for information - instead we will ask you to log on to your online account to check for information
Fraudsters often include links to webpages that look like the homepage of the HMRC website. This is to trick you into disclosing personal/confidential information. Just because the page may look genuine, does not mean it is. Bogus webpages often contain links to banks/building societies, or display fields and boxes requesting your personal information such as passwords, credit card or bank account details. You should be aware that fraudsters sometimes include genuine links to HMRC web pages in their emails, this is to try and make their emails appear genuine.
Fraudsters often send high volumes of phishing emails in one go so even though they may have your email address, they seldom have your name. Be cautious of emails sent with a generic greeting such as ‘Dear Customer’. Emails from HMRC will always:
- use the name you’ve provided to us
- include information on how to report phishing emails to HMRC
Meanwhile, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) the quality of service at HMRC ‘collapsed’ over an 18 month period between 2014 and 2015.
The report found that average call waiting times tripled in 2014/15 and in the first seven months of 2015/16. Call waiting times for self assessment tax returns peaked at 47 minutes last autumn, which resulted in HMRC having to bring in 2,400 extra staff for their tax helpline.
Using HMRC’s own criteria, the NAO valued people's time at an average of £17 an hour, and, as a result, calculated that callers would have wasted a total of £66 million while waiting on the phone, £21 million while actually talking to HMRC and £10 million on the cost of the call itself.
The NAO report blames the poor performance on HMRC's decision to cut 11,000 staff between 2010 and 2014 in the move to persuade more people to complete their tax returns online. The report claims that HMRC 'misjudged the cumulative impact of its complex transition and released too many customer service staff before completing service changes'.
In other words, it greatly underestimated how many call centre staff would still be required to help taxpayers with self assessment queries.
You can find out more about money matters on the Clay Shaw Butler website (under our news for business section) -
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