Businesses in the United Kingdom are being targeted by scammers impersonating Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. There have been several campaigns identified over the past weeks that are taking advantage of the measures put in place by the UK government to help businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic and the forced lockdowns that have prevented businesses from operating or have forced them to massively scale back operations.
The HMRC scams have been numerous and diverse, targeting businesses, the self-employed, furloughed workers and others via email, telephone, and SMS messages. Some of the scams involve threats of arrest and jail time due to the underpayment of tax, demanding payment over the phone to avoid court action or arrest.
One scam targeted clients of Nucleus Financial Services and used a genuine communication from the firm as a template. The genuine email appears to have been obtained from a third-party hacked email account. The email advised recipients that they were due a tax refund from HMRC. A link is supplied in the email that the recipient is required to click to receive their refund. In order to apply to receive the refund the user must enter sensitive information into the website, which is captured by the scammers.
Another campaign has been identified that spoofs HMRC and similarly seeks sensitive information such as bank account and email credentials. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government launched a scheme to help businesses by allowing them to defer their VAT payments between March and June 2020, until June 2021 to help ease the financial burden of the nationwide lockdown. Many businesses took advantage of the scheme and applied to have their Value Added Tax (VAT) payments deferred.
The campaign uses emails that spoof HMRC and inform businesses that their application to have their VAT payments deferred has been rejected as the company is in arrears. The emails include an attachment with further information and a report on their application. The document is password protected and the password is supplied in the email to allow the file to be opened.
A hyperlink is supplied which must be clicked which directs the user to a website where they are asked to enter sensitive information such as their bank account details and email address and password, which are captured by the scammers.
COVID-19 has presented scammers with a host of new opportunities to fool businesses into disclosing sensitive information. Many of the lures used in the emails, calls, and text messages are credible, the messages are well written, and the scammers have gone to lengths to make their phishing websites look like the entities they spoof.
Businesses should be on high alert and be particularly vigilant for phishing scams. They should advise their employees to take extra care with any request that requires the disclosure of sensitive information.
Technical controls should also be considered to block phishing emails at source and prevent visits to malicious websites. That is an area where TitanHQ can help. TitanHQ offers two anti-phishing solutions for businesses and MSPs to help them block phishing attacks: SpamTitan and WebTitan.
SpamTitan is a powerful email security solution that blocks phishing emails at source, preventing malicious messages from reaching inboxes. WebTitan is a DNS filtering solution that is used to control the websites that can be accessed over wired and wireless networks, blocking access to web pages that are used for phishing and malware delivery.
Both solutions are available on a free trial to allow you to evaluate their effectiveness before deciding on a purchase. Further information on the solutions, their benefits, and pricing can be obtained by calling the TitanHQ team.