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So are the lies. With fraudulent activity at an all time high, you need to be on your guard 24/7. So if we can start by just taking a few details of your account…
Few things in life are more pleasant than a letter from HMRC, so long as it’s one informing you of just how big your tax rebate is going to be. What though, if you haven’t applied for a rebate? That should ring an alarm bell right away. That’s what happened to a Sunday Times journalist, which sparked off a report that uncovered a most audacious scam.
Criminals - let’s not dress them up as anything else - had obtained the magazine editor’s account details. “Fraudsters hacked my online tax return” read the Sunday Times headline, but by then the dirty deed had been done. The malfeasants had filed a false tax return in her name, claiming a refund, which was duly paid out - except the villains changed the bank details to redirect funds to their own nefarious account.
Had the scribe been a Springford’s’ client, a quick call to her tax advisor would have soon revealed the fraud, and maybe have stopped the thieves in their tracks. Alas, she wasn’t, and the fraudsters got away with it. The only bright spot is that she wasn’t personally robbed. The funds came from HMRC. Put it another way, we were all ripped off.
HMRC admit that seasoned criminals escape with many tens of millions every year.
We don’t need the return of the X-Files to remind us that there’s a conspiracy of crime on the HMRC-Files. So, if Mulder and Scully aren’t on hand to bring the faceless felons to justice, here are some things we can do to help ourselves in a time where the only reasonable position is “trust no one”.
Be vigilant. Every online approach - email, social media, whatever - should be treated in the same way: if you wouldn’t have that conversation in the street with a total stranger, don’t have it online. If someone you don’t know phones you, knocks on your door, or writes to you - and asks you things you wouldn’t even reveal to your badge carrying partner - don’t deal with them. No exceptions.
Westminster government has launched a new fraud taskforce, which will name and shame the ten most wanted fraudsters in the UK, and attempt to stem the flow of funds to the gangsters, hoodlums and miscreants. No small task, since government figures say almost half a billion was scammed from credit cards alone in England and Wales in 2014, and almost certainly much more in 2015.
Fraud is no victimless crime, and shouldn’t be ignored, nor put down to experience. Report anything you suspect to be unsavoury back to the police, or even the institution you think is being misrepresented. Always use a known line of communication, and absolutely never the means provided by the shady party or in the suspect communique.
As the self-proclaimed most phished organisation in the world, HMRC itself recommends visiting the online security website www.getsafeonline.org. You’ll also find help in a recent BBC report, rounding up common frauds and scams, right here. Police Scotland produce a really useful leaflet, ready to download from their website here. There’s a UK wide reporting agency, ActionFraud that will take an online report from you and follow up.
It may take a few minutes of your time, and it may just be innocuous, but the only winners from inaction are the criminals, and that truth is most certainly out there.