HMRC shuts down record 20,000 fake websites

There has been a 29% hike in the number of malicious websites which HMRC has asked to be removed following a spate of scams involving fake emails and texts

The tax authority is warning the public to stay alert to the risks of online scams, which typically involve fake emails and texts.

In the past year, HMRC has requested a record 20,750 malicious sites be taken down, compared to 16,069 between June 2016 to May 2017.

During the financial year 2017/18 HMRC responded to nearly one million phishing referrals. The department has also been trialling new technology which identifies phishing texts with ‘tags’ that suggest they are from HMRC and stops them from being delivered. Since the pilot began in April 2017, there has been a 90% reduction in people reporting spoof HMRC-related texts.

In addition, HMRC says it is now using the verification system, domain-based message authentication, reporting and conformance (DMARC), which allows emails to be verified to ensure they come from a genuine source. The system has successfully stopped half a billion phishing emails reaching customers since it was introduced in November 2016.

Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘HMRC is cracking down harder than ever, as these latest figures show. But we need the public’s help as well. By doing the right thing and reporting suspicious messages you will not only protect yourself, you will protect other potential victims.’

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