Warnings after Ellon ‘phishing’ scam

editorial image

AN ELLON couple have warned taxpayers to be on their guard, after her receiving a scam e-mail purporting to be a claim for a tax rebate.

Margo McDonald and Ewan Gray, of Provost Davidson Drive, told the Times that the e-mail arrived on Wednesday, and that initially they had been convinced by its appearance and content.

“It came out of the blue,” said mechanic Ewan. “Reading it, I initially thought ‘fantastic!’.

“I only started my new job in August, and thought it might be something to do with that. When I thought about it though, it did seem quite suspicious. There were a couple of attachments, but I didn’t open them. I also noted that I couldn’t forward the e-mail for some reason, which was quite mysterious.”

“I called the tax office and they confirmed that it was indeed a scam. I was told to ignore and delete it - they said that genuine communications between the Inland Revenue and tax payers were by letter, and that they don’t send out e-mails.

Ewan showed the Times the letter, and the layout, tone and nature of the e-mail were extremely convincing to anyone unfamiliar with ‘phishing’ scams, as they are known. The sender’s address was ‘message@tax.co.uk’, and the document came complete with a reference number, named tax officer, an ostensible hotlink to the real HMRC homepage and a copyright logo at the bottom of the page.

“It looks and sound exactly like an official communication,” he said. “I had to follow it up to confirm that it wasn’t real. We’ve never had anything like this before, and it’s really worrying.”

Wife Margo added that the couple -who are not regular computer users - had been lucky, and that it would be easy for anyone unfamiliar with the internet to fall into the trap.

“We only really use the computer for the internet, but the number of scams is worrying,” she said. ”I phoned my sister in Inverurie to warn her after what happened to us.

“Anyone could fall for this: it’s a new tax year, and a lot of people will be thinking they might be due a rebate. We’ve learned a valuable lesson, and won’t fall for it, but others might not be so lucky.”

The Inland Revenue’s website states: “HMRC do not send notifications of a tax rebate by email, or request that you update your security certification. “If you have received an e-mail that you consider to be fraudulent, please forward it to HMRC at phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk.“

Warning signs that any communication is a scam include: asking for disclosure of personal information, vague communications which do not specify a name (‘Dear valued customer’), and links to false websites purporting to be HMRC.