Antivirus company Bitdefender has detected a scam targeting three million people expecting tax refunds in the UK, via emails impersonating an officer of HM Revenue & Customs.
The emails include the HMRC logo at the top and are entitled ‘NOTICE OF TAX RETURN FOR YEAR 2011'. It usually states that the recipient is owed a tax rebate £209.87, with forms attached to complete the claim.
The phishing scam's aim is to collect sensitive authentication data to people's credit card or bank details from the completed form. Cyber criminals would thus have the vital information required for identity fraud and the emptying of victims' bank accounts.
"With over three million UK citizens expected to start receiving tax refund payouts from now until October, there is clearly a large audience which could be duped by this convincing phishing scam", said Catalin Cosoi, Chief Security Researcher at Bitdefender. "We advise the public to disregard emails claiming to offer a tax rebate and ensure they have an effective security solution in place".
This type of tax refund scam was first detected in 2009, but has grown in sophistication since. The attached form that accompanies the scam no longer opens using the cyber criminals' registered domains, but now downloads onto the user's PC and opens through their local browser.
This bypasses the anti-phishing module in local security solutions, and Bitdefender believes the form is then sent to a domain registered in New Zealand. Cosoi has called the scam "more intelligent than ever before".