Have you been affected by identity fraud?
Cyber crime and identity fraud are two of the fastest growing crimes in the world. Cyber crime in Wales more than doubled between 2009 and 2010 and the American Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that the total dollar loss from all cases referred to its Internet Crime Complaint centre was $559.7 million in 2009, more than double the previous year.
And now, internet fraudsters are targeting your self assessment tax return and your claims for tax rebates in their latest attempt to profit from identity crime.
So-called ‘phishing’ scams are one of the most common ways that internet criminals try and defraud you. A ‘phishing’ scam involves a fraudster sending you a plausible looking e-mail which purports to be from your bank, or, in this case, a plausible tax return website.
The e-mail invites you to click a link where you will be redirected to an unsecure website. When you reach the site, you will be invited to complete personal information and confidential details including your bank account numbers and passwords.
Once the criminals have these details, they can access your bank accounts and credit cards and steal your money. They can also open new bank accounts and credit cards in your name which they use fraudulently.
A recent spate of phishing scams have related to income tax returns and rebates. A number of websites have been set up that attract people who are looking to reclaim money from their tax returns. These sites also use phishing scams to obtain confidential information.
HMRC recently confirmed that they have managed to close down more than two hundred bogus tax return sites, all looking to illegally profit by purporting to offer a genuine tax return or tax rebate service.
The easiest way to avoid being the victim of a ‘phishing’ scam is to never respond to an unsolicited e-mail that you receive. You should only ever click a link or provide personal information if you are 100% sure that the website is secure and genuine.
A simple way to protect yourself with tax matters is to only provide information when you have initiated the contact with HMRC. Don’t ever respond to an unsolicited e-mail, even if it does look as if it is genuine. Call HMRC before you provide any personal information to check that the request is genuine.