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The problem of Phishing


by David Watkinson

The problem of “phishing” contacts and e-mails is large and increasing, and fraudulent contact supposedly from HM Revenue & Customs is a very common one.

We have written before about some of these that have been experienced by clients or members of our firm. To try and counter this HM Revenue & Customs publish updated guidance on a regular basis, and the latest one was issued last month. This can be viewed by going to tps://tinyurl.com/pqvt5tw.

In that guidance HM Revenue & Customs provide details of all instances when they are sending emails to their “customers”. They also give a number of pointers for recognising a fraudulent email. These include:

  • Poor spelling and/or grammar, such as missing pronouns, etc. A good example would be “We send you by email a claim form”
  • A generic greeting, such as “Dear Taxpayer”. Genuine emails will “usually” be addressed personally
  • An incorrect “from” address, although they do say that fraudsters can falsify this to look legitimate.
  • A request for personal information such as your address, unique taxpayer reference, postcode or bank details
  • A notification of a tax rebate or an offer of a tax repayment
  • A request for specific financial information unless you have previously given them consent and formally accepted the risks
  • An attachment, again unless you have previously given them consent and formally accepted the risks
  • A threat of action unless immediate action is taken
  • A link to a fraudulent website. You should be aware that the link as displayed may not be correct. The real underlying link can be seen by hovering the curser above the displayed link WITHOUT pressing any buttons or keys.

Examples of phishing emails can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phishing-and-bogus-emails-hm-revenue-and-customs-examples.

The advice must always be to:

  • only open emails that you are 100% certain are genuine
  • NEVER to open any attachments if you have any doubts at all of their authenticity
  • NEVER click on any links if you have any doubts at all of their authenticity

As they used to say on Hill Street Blues “Let’s be careful out there!”

WatkinsonBlack have considerable experience in all areas of taxation and business services, including providing a very cost-effective payroll bureau service. If you want to arrange a no-obligation initial meeting on any taxation or accounting matter then please contact us. Please note that these ideas are intended to inform rather than advise and you should always obtain professional advice before taking any action


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