As sure as night follows day, personal tax season is always followed by a flood of email scams promising hefty tax refunds for those who take the bait. A record number of Self Assessments were filed this year and, perhaps sensing the potential to ensnare first-time filers, those nefarious scammers have cranked their phishing efforts up to previously unseen levels.

In the three months up to the Self Assessment deadline concerned taxpayers reported a total of 23,247 suspicious messages to HMRC – up a massive 47% on the same period last year. In the last month HMRC has also shut down 178 websites responsible for sending the illicit emails, up 65% from January last year.

Although the details vary from scam to scam, the same basic form is usually observed; an email arrives ostensibly from HMRC  informing you of a refund owed. To claim your refund you must fill in a form with bank and personal details, which passes those details to the individuals operating the scam. See here for more details on how to stay safe, and how to report these scams to HMRC.

Head of digital security at HMRC Gareth Lloyd said:

“HMRC never contacts customers who are due a tax refund via email – we always send a letter through the post. If you receive an email claiming to be from HMRC which offers a tax rebate, please send it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and then delete it permanently.”