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Be on your guard against ‘phishing’

Companies are being warned to be on their guard against ‘phishing’ phone calls as well as fake emails.

The advice, from South West chartered accountants and business advisers PKF Francis Clark, comes after even Bank of England Governor Mark Carney became victim to a hoaxer.

Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

The practice has been around for some time but the perpetrators are stepping up their efforts as HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is moving more and more of its activities online.

Phishing is specifically aimed at extracting sensitive information that fraudsters can use to make money at your expense. But according to PKF Francis Clark’s VAT team, these attempts at fraud are not just confined to online activity and emails.

Phishers are now brazenly giving false information over the telephone when targets are often less prepared to think through the implications of complying with fraudulent requests. Julie Towers, VAT Partner, said: “It has been brought to our attention that a client has received a fraudulent phone call from an individual claiming to be from the ‘VAT Recovery Unit’ – a unit which does not exist.

“Our client was told that their most recent VAT payment had bounced and that the payment had to be made immediately to a different account, otherwise the police/bailiffs would be sent.

“A bogus e-mail address was given, which to a client may appear convincing and legitimate.

“Our advice to clients who contact us having been approached in this way is not to make any payments. They should request confirmation in writing which is not likely to be forthcoming.”

HMRC provides detailed guidelines on how to recognise and avoid scams and asserts that it will never use texts or emails to tell you about a tax rebate or penalty or to ask for personal or payment information. Visit www.gov.uk/topic/dealing-with-hmrc/phishing-scams