HMRC reveals 73% rise in phishing attacks

There have been 367,520 reports of phishing email attacks during 2020, according to HMRC, with figures indicating a sharp rise in incidents after the UK went into its first lockdown in March.

According to a Freedom of Information (FOI) act data obtained by accountancy firm, Lanop Outsourcing, HMRC faced an average of 26,100 phishing attacks in January and February, before soaring to an average of 45,046 attacks per month from March to September – a 73% increase.

The lowest recorded number of phishing attacks from March to September 2020 took place in August, when just 38,096 attacks were detected by HMRC. However, this figure then climbed to 57,801 cases in September – the largest monthly quantity all year.

As well as phishing attacks, HMRC has also reported 199,621 cases of phone scams, and a further 58,921 reports of SMS scams.

Lanop Outsourcing director, Mohammad Sohaib, commented: “Cyber criminals have not missed a trick when it comes to using the devastating coronavirus to lure unknowing victims into leaking their own private information, such as passwords and payment details, via a phishing scam.

“In one such example, scammers impersonated HMRC to trick business owners into believing that their VAT deferral application, a key government support initiative during the pandemic, had been rejected. They would then redirect victims to a website with official HMRC branding, before stealing credit card details.

“Unfortunately, we are likely to see the percentage of ‘successful’ scams to increase, as the sophistication and quantity of these attacks continues to surge. Combatting it requires constant online vigilance from business owners, consumers and internet users, as well as training and education around the threat facing them.”

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