TT200: The Fraudsters are after you…

We have written before on the subject of ‘scam’ and ‘phishing’ emails but unfortunately the problem is not going away and is in fact getting worse.  Clients must stay alert because fraudsters are becoming ever more sophisticated in their attempts to steal your hard earned money.

‘Phishing’ emails are a common internet phenomenon and are emails sent in an attempt to obtain your personal/financial information such as passwords, credit card or bank account details.  For more information and advice on ‘phishing’ emails, our Topical Tip number 188 remains valid and can be accessed on our website.

Fraudsters becoming more sophisticated.

However, a new and worrying development has recently been reported in the press.  One self-employed individual lost over £20,000 to a sophisticated scam which involved a fraudster who hacked into the individual’s accountant’s email system and sent instructions to pay a VAT demand into a particular bank account which, it turned out, was the fraudster’s and not HMRC’s.  The individual only found this out when HMRC chased for the money and of course by then the fraudster had long disappeared after emptying the bank account.

Even more worrying is that according to the Financial Ombudsman Service there is no legal obligation for banks to return money lost through e-mail scams.

Meanwhile, HMRC have reported a worrying increase in the number of ‘scam’ emails purporting to come from the tax office and demanding payments or asking for bank details in connection with supposed refunds.  HMRC have stated that in the three months leading to 31 January 2014 (the self assessment tax return deadline) more than 23,000 scam emails were reported to them – a 47% increase on the previous year.

Remain alert; protect yourself.

The advice that must be taken on board is that you cannot be too careful.  If you are in any doubt at all about an email (or phone call) then you should double check.  Neither we at Barnes Roffe LLP, nor staff at HMRC, will object if you call us to check on the validity of any communication you receive.  It really is a case of ‘better safe than sorry’.

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