Fife’s Conservative group leader Dave Dempsey has warned of a sophisticated online scam offering tax refunds.
It appears to be timed to catch out people who have completed a tax return in the last few weeks.
Cllr Dempsey, who had recently completed his own tax return, said he received two emails early one morning – the first, entitled ‘Your tax summary’, was genuine; the second, entitled ‘Tax Refund Notification’, was not.
Cllr Dempsey explained: “I was suspicious because I didn’t think I was due a refund and because the sender’s email address ended in ‘.co.uk’ rather than ‘.gov.uk’.
“The wording was a little odd too, but not glaringly so. As an ex-software engineer, I’ve a technical interest in these things so I looked a little further and came to a well-constructed web page with the HMRC logo and lots of links to other tax topics.
“Clicking any of the links, however, brings you back to the same tax refund form that asks for e-mail, name and date of birth.
“I entered those, or rather I entered completely fictitious data. I now know that Jack the Ripper is owed £418.33 in back tax, as is King Kong and everyone else who has ever existed or not.
“What’s really clever is that the website pretends to search for the name before returning the same answer regardless. It then asks for credit card details. At that point I stopped.”
Cllr Dempsey has reported his findings to the HMRC ‘phishing’ line as advised on the genuine email, and has also been in contact with Trading Standards and the police.
However, he said it was important that word got out as soon as possible to as many people as possible.
Cllr Dempsey highlighted the following useful pointers:
• Government websites and email addresses generally end .gov.uk, so anything different is potentially suspicious.
• HMRC will send out tax rebates. You don’t have to apply online.
• UK organisations don’t ask for Zip codes or dates in the month/day/year order, as used in USA.
• Links on emails and websites don’t always go where they say they do. If you move the mouse over a link you’ll often see where it really points to. If it’s very different from the text then be warned.
• If it looks too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true.