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HMRC calls for more care with tax log-in details

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Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs is warning users of its online filing system that they need to keep their log-in details as safe as they would a PIN for a cash card.

The warning comes because a small number of users have had their details and passwords used to make fraudulent claims. But the Revenue remains confident in the security of its systems and has no intention of changing them. People wishing to file their tax return online must register online and then await the postal delivery of an activation code.

A spokesman for HMRC said:

Our IT and online systems remain safe and secure. Criminals, however, constantly target computer users with viruses and phishing attacks and have managed to get hold of a small number of users' details and passwords and made fraudulent claims for tax repayments. We are working closely with the people affected and the police to tackle the threat of this kind of organised e-crime, and we urge all our customers to take extra care with passwords and other forms of identification.

There is no reason to believe that the users' security details that have been used fraudulently were obtained from HMRC."

Despite some problems dealing with demand last year, the Revenue still saw 5.8m people file their returns online.

In other news, the Revenue denied reports that it was considering offshoring the processing of UK tax returns in order to save costs. HMRC is currently engaged in "Project Quantum" to cut spending on technology. It is negotiating with suppliers Capgemini and others to reduce costs.

But the official line is: "The contract does not permit IT services to be delivered from outside of the UK and we currently have no plans to change this. Data security is always of paramount importance to HMRC and we would in no way compromise this."

Of course a cynic might say that there are no plans in place yet because the review is ongoing. And given HMRC's lamentable data security record it could easily be argued that sending taxpayer details to India is safer than leaving them in the hands of the Rev. ®

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