Scams promising tax refunds
There’s a new scam to watch out for. These e-mails, purporting to be from the tax office, ask for your bank account details. This article includes more information about this scam and how to avoid scamming generally.
One definition of scam is ‘confidence trick’. The trouble is it’s not just your confidence that they’re after. It’s your bank account details. The number of e-mail scams in Spain has increased substantially over the years. We can all be wise after the event and some of the ways in which our personal details are scrounged are very inventive. They try to frighten us with threats about security alerts and with promises of winning money and financially secure investments.
You might be on your guard for some of these but would you recognise a scam masquerading under the heading of the Tax Office? Some of our clients have recently reported receiving tax refund e-mails from HMRC and Agencia Tributaria (the Spanish Tax Authority). They begin with the enticing statement, ‘You are eligible to receive a tax refund of…’ and of course then go on to ask for bank account details for the money to be refunded.
Beware! As tax advisers we can assure you that you won’t be contacted in this way if a refund is due. Coming up to the June deadline for resident tax declarations we do sometimes have the pleasurable duty of informing clients that they can expect a Spanish tax rebate. But it doesn’t happen by e-mail.
On completion of your annual tax declaration you will be informed by your tax adviser of whether you owe money or if money is due to you. If you’re lucky enough to have a rebate it will be paid automatically into your bank account as your bank account details are on the tax declaration form you complete. You will receive your rebate in your account by the 31st December. No need to inform anyone of anything by e-mail.
Here’s some general guidance on separating the genuine from the scam:
1. look out for spelling and grammar mistakes – these e-mails can be very badly written and are a first sign that something isn’t right
2. beware anything that asks for financial details online – a reputable source knows not to request information in this way
3. beware anything that asks you to ‘verify your account’ or ‘if you don’t respond within 48 hours your account will be closed’ – these are typical phrases that are used
4. a scam doesn’t usually address you directly you might be a ‘valued customer’ or ‘dear friend’
5. watch out for slightly changed websites for example instead of www.microsoft.com it might be www.mircosoft.com – spot the difference?
6. don’t go to the website through the link provided by the e-mail – it will probably take you to a ‘spoofed’ site. Instead enter the URL in the usual way you would access it. Fake websites can be quite convincing – don’t risk it.
This is not an exhaustive list of advice. Keep your wits about you, use your common sense and if you’re not sure - don’t go there.
Susan Partridge Helme
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