HMRC RECEIVED ALMOST 80,000 reports of tax rebate phishing emails last year.
The emails, reported by taxpayers, promise a tax refund in exchange for personal, credit card or banking details. Responding to the emails leads to risks of fraud and the selling-on of the taxpayer's details to criminals.
Taxpayers are tricked into handing over their information by the apparent authenticity of the emails, often linking to clones of HMRC's website.
HMRC closed down 522 illegal sites in 2012. The emails originated from countries including the USA, Russia, Japan and central and eastern Europe.
Gareth Lloyd, head of digital security for HMRC, said: "HMRC does not email customers about tax refunds - we only ever contact customers who are genuinely due tax back in writing, by post."
Lloyd added that anyone receiving an email offering a tax rebate, claiming to be from HMRC, should delete it permanently.
He said: "HMRC does everything it can to ensure customers are safe online and we are working closely with other law enforcement agencies to target the criminals behind this serious crime."
HMRC advise not clicking on websites or links contained in suspicious emails or opening attachments. They also recommend forwarding suspicious emails to email@example.com.
Further advice is published at www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/index.htm.
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