Covid-19 HMRC SMS phishing scam targets passport details of self-employed

London: 30th June 2020: Self-employed workers are being targeted with a new SMS phishing scam, designed to obtain the victim’s passport number, home address, and bank account details.  The scheme, uncovered by Griffin Law, beings with a text message purporting to be from HMRC, telling the recipient they are due a tax refund and should apply online via a site with the URL http://ukservice.org

The site uses official HMRC branding and is entitled ‘Coronavirus (Covid-19) guidance and support”. It asks visitors for personal details including their name, home address and government gateway log-in credentials. The form then calculates a ‘tax refund’ which always gives the result of £324.37, event when fake credentials are entered.

Users are them asked to provide their personal bank details in full, including the expiry date, name on the card, sort code and Card Verification Value (CVV). A new aspect of the latest scam is that it also asks for ‘verification’ of the user by requesting the passport number for the purpose of identity theft. Errors in the website code have been noted by suspicious users, including links for ‘extra information’ and ‘cookies’ leading to broken links. 

So far, Griffin Law has ascertained that around 80 self-employed London-based workers have reported receiving this scam to their respective accountant. 

“It’s high time HMRC, the ICO and the police work more closely together, using the many powers they already have, to stop ordinary taxpayers being scammed like this. It’s high time taxpayers were properly protected from conmen who are taking advantage of the pandemic in such a despicable way as this”.

Donal Blaney, Principal, Griffin Law

This research has been reported in several publications.

Image: Page 36  30/6/20

HMRC has said it is aware of a number of Covid-19-related scams and has published a detailed list of the various rouses they use. These include a number of refunds scams sent via email, text message, via WhatsApp, social media and over the phone. It said it will never ask for personal or financial information when it sends text messages to taxpayers.

Anyone who receives a suspicious message claiming to be from HMRC and offering a tax refund in exchange for personal or financial details should not reply or open any links in the message, it advised.

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