Attempted fraud by criminals claiming businesses owe money or are entitled to tax refunds has increased during the coronavirus crisis. Fortunately, there are some simple steps businesses can follow to identify fraudulent communication.
No matter how many times we are told by the tax authorities that they never send emails or text messages requiring customers to send personal information via email, text or pop-up windows, the mere mention of the words ‘refund’ or ‘investigation’ are enough to make even the most suspicious individual think twice.
Of course, the scammers know that – which is why they want us to believe we have either underpaid or overpaid our taxes. The former approach is possibly more dangerous because it will be quickly followed by a request for credit/debit card or bank account details.
Words of warning
It is easy to spot a fake email or text when it has obvious spelling mistakes or looks like it was written by someone for whom English is not their first language. In some cases the sender of the email will claim to be working for the revenue or some other foreign tax authority.
But fraudsters have become more sophisticated, realising that if they send a message that appears legitimate there will be those who assume it is genuine. These texts often include links to a ‘validation’ screen which the recipient is asked to complete in order to receive their ‘refund’.
The best thing to do when you receive a suspicious email or text claiming to come from Revenue is to delete it. If you have shared any sensitive financial information with a suspected fraudster you should contact your bank or credit card company immediately to inform them of the fraud and also inform the Gardai.
In some cases the scammers will call, which is more intimidating. The caller will usually claim that you need to pay an outstanding bill immediately or face criminal proceedings, or that they need some personal details to verify your identity.
The caller may sound genuine, but Revenue would ever ask you to reveal details of a credit/debit card or bank account over the phone.
Sophisticated scammers can make it look as if they are ringing from a genuine number. If you receive a call claiming to come from Revenue you should never disclose any personal financial information no matter what the caller says.
Links to fraud
Last year Revenue wrote to several thousand taxpayers to inform them that personal details held in the user profile of their Revenue myAccount may have been accessed by fraudsters.
The problem was caused by people clicking on a link in a text sent by fraudsters which purported to be the Revenue myAccount log-in screen. In some cases the victims had revealed their PPSN, date of birth and/or myAccount password, which could potentially be used to access the bank account details recorded with Revenue.
If you want the check the progress of a refund you should contact your local Revenue office. A quick check of a cloud-based accounting solution such as Big Red Cloud will tell you whether or not it has been paid – and will also help you submit accurate returns.