HMRC has denied a report in the Sunday Times which claimed criminals are hacking into people’s online tax returns.
The Sunday Times highlighted an incident involving Jackie Annesley, the Sunday Times style magazine’s editor, who alleged criminals had falsified her tax return in order to steal £1,826. Annesley received notification concerning suspicious activity occurring on her self assessment account. After the hacking attempt, Annesley said: “You have to think the fraudsters are cleverer than HMRC.”
HMRC has reassured taxpayers and agents that its systems remain secure, and confirmed that there wasn’t a breach in security. HMRC has revealed that they have intercepted more than 17,000 fraudulent or incorrect repayment claims out of the 3.4 million which have been processed.
The incident was likely due to the taxpayer or their agent not keeping their details secure or system secure. Self assessment season saw an increase of phishing emails claiming to be from HMRC. Commenting at the start of January, Brian Spector, MIRACL’s chief executive, warned: “With all the financial data involved in a tax return, a criminal could potentially take out a mortgage in your name. Data theft and identity fraud is a multi-billion dollar business on the dark web, and so consumers must be vigilant.”
An HMRC spokesperson told AccountingWEB: "Our online services have not been hacked and remain secure. We take our obligations around protecting customer data extremely seriously and have systems in place to review suspicious activity and monitor access to accounts. It's only right that when appropriate we contact taxpayers and any agents acting to alert them to any concerns."
HMRC recommends anyone concerned to keep their online credentials safe and to follow best practice regarding changing passwords. They have directed taxpayers and agents to read further advice on the HMRC website.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.