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Beware Notice of Tax Return e-mail

Beware Notice of Tax Return e-mail

I don’t often get e-mails from Her Majesties Revenue & Customs (HMRC), normally these are in a response to my filling out my tax return on-line, using the e-mail address which I have given them for confirmation. So when e-mail claiming to be from HMRC turns up in a different account I tend to be immediately suspicious, and have just received one such e-mail.

Subject: Notice of Tax Return
Date: 15 Oct 2012 07:09:24 -0500
From: HMRC taxes@hmr.co.uk
Reply-To: noreply@hmr.co.uk
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

www.hmrc.gov.uk

Date 10 october 2012
Our Ref. C/20355/12
Your Ref. 10B/235/12

NOTICE OF TAX RETURN FOR YEAR 2011

Dear Sir/Madam,/

I am sending this email to announce: After the last annual calculation
of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to
receive a tax return of:

£211.47

/To receive your return, you need to create a Government Gateway account./
/Click here to Register
/
Our head office address can be found on our web site at HM Revenue &
Customs: www.hmrc.gov.uk /

————————————————————————
…….The contents of this email and any attachments are confidential
and as applicable, copyright in these is
…….reserved to HM Revenue & Customs. Unless expressly authorised by
us, any further dissemination or
…….distribution of this email or its attachments is prohibited.

 

This one is not the most convincing phishing email I have seen (this was better but still not convincing, always look for the gov.uk domain name in the email header). As I have said before:
If you have also received one of these e-mails, first off do not click on the link and don’t give any of you details. Secondly, forward it with the full headers to HMRC (see here for details) and help them catch the scammers, it is in interest of all of us to stop this sort of thing!

I have since been told by HMRC that it “does not use email to contact people about being eligible for a repayment or to ask personal information or payment”. So any e-mail telling you that HM Revenue & Customs is offering you a tax refund it is a scam, don’t fall for it.

Oh and in case you are wondering, I have good anti-spam software and get very little spam in general, but every so often something gets through. Also the hmr.co.uk domain name belongs to a family run employment agency, who probably don’t like their domain name being used for spam e-mails either, so please don’t send them rude replies.

If you have received any such e-mails are would like to comment below, please do so. If the worse thing happens and you have given them your details – there is advice on what to do here and here.

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Tax Refund Notification

Tax Refund Notification

I had an interesting e-mail today, it claimed to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and read as follows:

 
From: HM Revenue & Customs <refund.claim-hm@hmrc.gov.uk>
Subject: Tax Refund Notification
Date: Sat, 7 May 2011 16:19:58 +0100
To: undisclosed-recipients:

Tax Refund Notification

After the last annual calculation of your fiscal activity, we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of 973.90 GBP. Please submit the refund request and allow 5-7 days for processing. Click Here To Claim Your Refund

Best Regards,
HM Revenue & Customs

 

It looks almost real but something about it just didn’t feel right. For one thing, the address looked wrong, having been a civil servant (I used to work for the Forestry Commission) I knew that all UK Government e-mails are name@[department].gsi.gov.uk, this wasn’t from inwith the Government Secure Intranet (GSI). Then there was the fact that it was to “undisclosed-recipients”, tax calculations are personal, this suggest that has been sent to multiple people. Thirdly, it wasn’t sent to the e-mail address I use to communicate with the Inland Revenue. So I did a wee bit of digging around and sure enough I soon found that it is a scam.

If you have also received one of these e-mails, first off do not click on the link and don’t give any of you details. Secondly, forward it with the full headers to HMRC (see here for details) and help them catch the scammers, it is in interest of all of us to stop this sort of thing!

I have since been told by HMRC that it “does not use email to contact people about being eligible for a repayment or to ask personal information or payment”. So any e-mail telling you that HM Revenue & Customs is offering you a tax refund it is a scam, don’t fall for it.

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Phone call from the “Technical Department of Windows”

Phone call from the “Technical Department of Windows”

I received an odd telephone call this morning. The caller with an Indian voice, who claimed to be from the “Technical Department of Windows”, tried to tell me that I had down loaded some malware from the internet on to my computer. When I asked how she knew this, the caller became confused, and as the line was poor I took the opportunity to hang up. Ten seconds later the phone rang again, the same caller again apologising for having been cut off and once again telling me that there was a problem with my computer. So for a second time I asked how she knew, again she became confused, but this time handed me on to a male colleague who ignored my question and got on with the script. He asked me if I could see my computer, which I said I could, next he asked if I could see the “My Computer” icon. At this point I consider playing along to see where this was going, but two things stopped me, first I wasn’t going to able to follow his instructions (as I am using Ubuntu Linux, not MS Windows), and two I had better things to do with my day. Therefore I hung up once again and have had no further calls. I tried ringing 1471 but as they were phoning from abroad the number was unavailable so I had nothing to report to Consumer Direct’s “Report a Scam” service.

This afternoon I found myself still thinking about the call, I was intrigued to know how common this sort of thing is, so I did a quick Google search and I found there is plenty hits showing that this is a regular problem. Obviously, Microsoft would never make such a phone call, you have to phone them to get support not the other way around. Either way, their advice on dealing with scams is pretty thin. The best advice dealing with these scams comes from the Digital Toast blog, which also has an entertaining collection of videos of people winding up the scammers. Also, the Guardian technology editor, Charles Arthur, makes some interesting comments about who might be behind these scams. If you have received a call recently, maybe you would like to leave a comment.

Update
In the years since this post was originally written this scam has changed to include the “Technical Department of BT” and “Virgin Media Technical Department”. The simple fact is that no “Technical Department” cold calls customers to tell them that their computers are in some way infected with a virus. These calls are scams, please don’t fall for them.

Oh and just is case you were wondering if Microsoft knows about this scam, well yes they were told about it in March 2010, it is just that they can’t be bothered to do anything about it…

Addendum: It would appear that Microsoft have finally woken up and realised there is a problem and this is their official advice. Please note that the scammers are now also claiming to be from: Windows Service Centre, Windows Help Desk, Microsoft Tech Support, Microsoft Support, Windows Technical Care, Windows Technical Department Support Group or Microsoft Research and Development Team (Microsoft R & D Team). So please take care.

Addendum: There have been a number attempts to comment on this blog saying that the fraudster making this calls are legitimate, the latest came from:

 
Author: luckysharma (IP: 115.115.103.248 , 115.115.103.248.static-kolkata.tcl.net.in)
E-mail: luckysharma420@gmail.com
Comment: this is genuine company…ok

 

Please note these calls are entirely fraudulent, do not allow these people to access your computer.

Addendum: There has been one high profile arrest and conviction but, sadly, there are plenty more still active. Please take care.

 

Addendum: I have had a number of people asking if there is a way of stopping these calls (see comments below), well there are call blocking devices available on the market which can be effective. You also need Caller ID on your phone line, this may be an extra cost depending on your phone provider. Some phone providers may not supply Caller ID for international calls and so you need to think about just who you want to block, to avoid blocking legitimate calls i.e. family members and friends living abroad, or people calling from switchboards where the number is withheld (personally this last one is a risk I would take). If anyone has experience of using such call blocking devices they would like to share, please feel free to comment below.

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More junk mail

More junk mail

Despite being signed up to the Mailing Preference Service I still get some junk mail. One such item arrived in today’s post from the Domain Renewal Group, helpfully pointing out that one of the domain names which I own expires later this year. It is worth noting that this event is a good six months away. The letter informs me that I must renew my domain name “to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web” so far so good. It then goes on to say “now is the time to transfer and renew your name from your current Registrar to the Domain Renewal Group. Failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity” Well yes, but my current Registrar will contact me in good time, usually a month before. So I really don’t need to be told six months ahead by the Domain Renewal Group, and they give no good reason why I should change to their more expensive service. The Domain Renewal Group is of course just a scam, they aren’t acting in my interests, they just trying to rip me off.

So what to do? I could take the advice of domainscams.co.uk which mainly seems to be to return the addressed envelope, enclosed with the letter, without a stamp and with a short message, but none too polite telling them where to go. While this maybe briefly satisfying, I doubt it will have much real effect as they have probably taken this cost into account in their “business model”. No, what is really need is a heavy fine, so I think it better to take the MPS advice and send them a full copy of the mailing including the envelope. I am also thinking of taking it up with Trading Standards, but I suspect they will just tell me to take it up with the MPS in the first instance. What ever I do, this time I am not just going to shred it, I am going to fight back.

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Junk mail

Junk mail

Despite being signed up to the Mailing Preference Service I still get some junk mail. I got one such item this morning from the Domain Registry of America helpfully pointing out that one of the domain name which I own expires later this year. The letter is laid out to look like a bill, although is does say that it is not, and it requires me to reply a full three months before my registration expires. So I was immediately suspicious, the rate they were offering was more expensive than I am currently paying, so I have no intention of using them. A quick Google search show that I was right to be suspicious this is defiantly a scam. So if you have a web site with your own domain name and you get a letter like this with Registration Services on the outside and Domain Registry of America on the letter head, put it strait in the recycling bucket.

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