A set of spam emails from fraudsters purporting to be from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) offering a tax rebate are currently doing the rounds.

If you get either of the two scam messages, the advice is simple: do not open them. If you open one by mistake, do not click on the link, open any attachments or disclose any personal details as you risk having your identity stolen.

Many taxpayers may currently be receptive to tax-related messages from seemingly-official bodies because of the upcoming 31 July self assessment tax deadline. HMRC has reported a spike over recent days in the number of calls reporting these emails as suspicious.

The Revenue says it never notifies taxpayers of a rebate via email, nor does it ask them to complete an online form to request money back.

In a statement, it adds: "It is very important anyone receiving it does not reply or provide any personal details whatsoever.

"We are liaising closely with those agencies working to close down and prosecute those behind these scams."

If you have opened the email or attachment, it's useful to do a scan of your computer for trojans or viruses (see the free anti-virus and safety software guide).

Sophisticated fraud

MSE's IT department has analysed the offending emails and says it is one of the more sophisticated spam campaigns recently seen.

The emails have been sent from a California-registered address but that does not necessarily mean it is a fraud originating from the US.

There are two versions of this email that MSE has seen so far.

Version 1: An HTML email with a hidden, dodgy link

With this, you will be asked to click on a link to get a refund. That link takes you to a form to fill out sensitive personal information and credit or debit card details.

If you submit those, you'll be redirected to the Revenue's genuine website but that form will be visible to the fraudsters behind the email.

Version 2: A plain text email, but beware the attachment

Here, you're sent a similar message, but it's in plain text. The link in the email takes you to the genuine HMRC website (even though the web address is not the official .gov.uk address the Revenue usually gives out).

This is an attempt to make the email seem genuine, but the sting comes in the attachment. This is a form which could again allow the scammers to view your private details.

From: HM Revenue & Customs [mailto:refund-application@hmrc.refundform.co.uk]
Sent: 20 July 2009 09:02
Subject: 2008 - 2009 Recalculation of you tax refund

Tax return 2008 - 2009
2008 - 2009 Recalculation of you tax refund
Local Office no. 182 20/July/2009

ATTN: Dear Applicant

After the last annual calculation of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of 344.79 GBP Your TRN (TAX REFUND NUMBER): UK52/288194HMRC29/158, complete the tax return form attached to this message.

After completing the form, submit the form by clicking the SUBMIT button on form and allow us 5-9 business days in order to process it.

Our head office address can be found on our web site at http://www.hmrc.co.uk/

Note: For security reasons, we recommend that you close your browser after you have finished accessing your refund status.
- For security reasons, we will record your ip-address and date.
- Deliberate wrong inputs are criminally pursued and indicted.

Jennifer xxxxxx
(MSE has hidden the name for privacy reasons)
Tax Credit Officer
Telephone: 0845 300 3900
Opening hours:
8.00 am to 8.00 pm, seven days a week

Further reading/Key links

Ensure your computer is protected: Free Anti-virus software
Find out how much tax you owe: 2009/10 Tax Breakdown
Revenue advice: tax rebate email warning
News archive: Don't miss the 31 July tax deadline