Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/01/18/hmrc_scam_emails/

HMRC fraud warning emails baited by phishers

Spotting scams doesn't have to be taxing

By John Leyden

Posted in Security, 18th January 2010 12:56 GMT

UK taxpayers were targeted by a tax fraud scam mail run late last week.

Fraudulent emails (sample extract below) tried to scare recipients into handing over confidential details to a bogus website in response to supposed allegations that the prospective mark was hiding some of their income.

Tax Type: INCOME TAX Issue: Unreported/Underreported Income (Fraud Application)

Please review your tax statement on HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website (click on the link below)

Vulture central spam filters rapped scores of these phishing emails between Thursday and Saturday last week. UK-based net security firm Sophos confirms we were far from alone.

"We're seeing a fair bit of it. 'Unreported/Underreported Income (Fraud Application)' etc," Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos told El Reg. "Clicking on the phishing link sends a ref to the site containing your email address - telling them that you have a 'live' address," he added.

Previous HMRC-themed emails have touted fake tax rebates prompting warnings from government tax collectors last October and January, for example. Although the latest run of scam emails play on fear rather than greed, their intent as a means to harvest bank account and other sensitive personal information is very similar to previous attacks.

HMRC's policy is to only contact taxpayers by post.

Britain is by no means unique in spawning tax collector-themed scam emails. In the US, for example, IRS-themed scam emails are commonplace. ®