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News

Phishing increase coincides with self-assessment deadline

McAfee : 09 January, 2009  (Technical Article)
The HMRC is warning tax payers of fraudulent attempts to gain information as phishers home in on self-assessment deadline
As you may have seen fraudsters are targeting taxpayers with scam emails in the run up to the 31 January deadline for Self Assessment, according to an announcement made by HM Revenue and Customs. HMRC also warned the public to be aware of further fraudulent attempts to obtain personal information after the 31 January deadline has passed when many people will be waiting to hear about genuine tax refunds.

Greg Day, Security Analyst for McAfee comments: 'What separates these scams from phishing attacks of the past is their attention to detail with structure, correct grammar and the professional appearance of illegitimate website. For many years now cyber criminals have been using news topicality and world events in order try to make their scams appear valid. However, these scams have often fallen short by attempting to react with speed rather than accuracy. The most recent HMRC phishing scam which tries to mimic the HMRC site so duping users with a site that appears legitimate and recognisable and which they are therefore more likely to respond to.

The scam alerts consumers that they have a tax rebate waiting to be claimed and asks them to provide their details in order to be refunded; in this instance luring the PC user with the offer of reasonable sums of money (a reported £250), further strengthening the appeal and validity of the e-mails. In the past phishing scams have offered get-rich-quick type schemes, which instantly set alarm bells ringing amongst PC users. However, by offering realistic, yet significant amounts of money as a tax rebate this instantly gives the e-mails a sense of legitimacy.

This level of attention to detail is something that we saw increasingly last year and sets the tone for spam in 2009. As the recession takes its toll on many people across the UK and beyond, and as finances become even more stretched, people are becoming more susceptible to such scams. Cybercriminals have changed their approach and are targeting individuals for smaller gains with a greater success rate which over an extended period can result in equivalent financial gains to the larger quick-wins.

We've already seen six specific HMRC focused phishing attacks in January alone, whilst the HMRC has received over 11,000 reports of fraudulent repayment emails since April 2008. As phishers continue to target consumers through topical news and events such as this we will continue to see phishing scams appear and re-appear later down the line. Cybercriminals will continue to develop their phishing skills and improve the appearance of their scams in order to lure more victims; therefore, consumers must continue to remain vigilant and wary of any requests for personal details or banking information and not respond to requests for such information sent via email.'
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