Taxpayers targeted by 1.5 million phishing scams in two years

Fraudsters have targeted UK taxpayers with a total of 1,524,449 fake emails, calls or text messages purporting to be from HMRC over the last two years, new data from Griffin Law has revealed.

The litigation specialist has analysed the number of suspected fake correspondence reported to HMRC’s official complaints email for phishing scams by members of the public in 2018 and 2019.

Griffin Law found that 254,258 suspected phone scams were reported to HMRC over the two-year period, with the data showing a sharp increase from 58,538 reports in 2018, to 195,720 reported last year.
 
The data also showed that attempted email scams had dropped from 841,805 to 333,857, a 60% decrease, but still a ‘substantial’ figure, according to Griffin Law. Furthermore, there were 94,529 SMS text message phishing scams during the two-year period, with reports in this area rising by 56%, from 36,950 in 2018 to 57,579 in 2019.

Griffin Law managing director, Donal Blaney, commented: “No reputable organisation will ask for your private account details or tell you to click through on a link and supply personal data or passwords. Learn to spot the fraudsters.

“Many are very good, but quick clues such as spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in the text, or if it is sent from an obscure looking email address, may indicate that you are being scammed. We need to find these criminals and punish them severely for the distress they cause by preying on the vulnerable, or those caught off-guard.”

Griffin Law suggested that its data meant either taxpayers were becoming more aware of the threat of email scams, email filtration systems and cyber defence software had improved, or that cyber criminals had spotted a trend of success in phone scams.
 
The data also indicated that fake correspondence from HMRC had affected all areas of the country in the two-year period.
 
Barracuda Networks SVP, Chris Ross, added: “It’s no surprise that cyber criminals see impersonating HMRC through fraudulent phishing schemes as an easy route to securing cash payouts from unsuspecting victims.

“What’s most disturbing about these figures is the sophisticated multi-channel approach being used across calls, texts and emails to dupe individuals into assuming these interactions are a legitimate communication from the taxman.
 
“Moving forward, it’s vital that there is much more public awareness about how advanced and prevalent these phishing schemes have become. It’s also important to recognise the lengths these criminals will go to trick entrepreneurs, finance workers and vulnerable or elderly people into handing over PIN codes or transferring money to false accounts.”

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