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HM Revenue and Customs targets phishing sites

16 August 2010 - 15:35 by Mike Price

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HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has released details of a range of phishing sites. These sites are designed to trick UK consumers into giving away personal details and can lead to identity theft and fraud.

In an ongoing campaign against international gangs of criminals who prey on innocent web users looking for a bargain, HMRC has noted a significant increase in the number of spam emails and phishing sites targeting UK citizens.

HMRC has a website which you can visit to see whether or not an unsolicited email that has arrived in your inbox is legitimate or linked to a harmful online fraud. In general, HMRC advises that you should never click links, download files or open attachments that are sent unheralded to your email address, as doing so can have serious consequences.

It is said that criminals are crafting spam campaigns and phishing sites which are so cleverly constructed that even seasoned UK online shoppers will be hard pressed to identify illegitimate sites and emails.

Security expert Alan Bentley said that criminals will frequently trick people by offering them something appealing or useful in the subject line of an email and then drive them to a phishing site claiming to offer safe shopping online. Many such sites masquerade as a well known brand, into which the user is encouraged to input personal data.

Mr Bentley is one of many industry insiders who believe that although educating the consumer is important, the responsibility for safe shopping online must partly lie with financial institutions and businesses, as well as the government.

HMRC said that fraudsters are not only harnessing the exploitative powers of phishing sites and spam mail, but were also using more traditional methods such as simply telephoning UK consumers and claiming that a tax rebate was due, with the objective of obtaining bank account information.