March may see a spike in impersonation scams, major bank warns

by The Technical Blogs


A spike in impersonation scams was recorded by a major bank in March last year – and it warned that this month could see a similar uplift.

HSBC UK said that nearly £1.1 million was reported stolen from its customers by impersonation scammers in March 2023, with people being defrauded out of £5,791 on average.

The total accounts for around one ninth of the value of all impersonation scams notified to the bank across the whole of 2023 – making March the month when most impersonation frauds took place.

As the end of the tax year approaches on April 5, people may be expecting to be contacted by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to clarify details on their tax returns, the bank said.

This may make some impersonation scams appear more plausible.

Scammers posing as HMRC via phishing emails, calls and texts may try to persuade people to send them money in addition to stealing personal details that will be harvested for use in future scams.

David Callington, HSBC UK’s head of fraud, said: “Crooks use every trick in the book to hoodwink their victims into sending money to them while pretending to be someone they know and trust, whether that is their bank, the police, their energy, broadband or mobile phone provider, or HMRC.

“They are particularly active and pretending to represent HMRC in March, with people tending to be more susceptible because they may expect contact as it is the end of the tax year.”

Some scammers will have a scattergun approach, sending a high number of emails or texts.

But some will be more targeted and know details of their victims already.

Here are some tips from HSBC UK to avoid impersonation scams:

1. Hover your cursor over the sender field in any email, which should show you the actual address it was sent from, helping you to identify bogus correspondence.

2. If you receive an email or message purporting to be from HMRC, stop and think. HMRC will never ask you to hand over confidential information such as passwords, one-time passcodes (OTPs) or your Pin. You should also never share your HMRC login details.

3. Do not reply to anything you believe could be a scam, do not click on any links and do not open any attachments.

4. If you need to contact an organisation such as HMRC, only use phone numbers, links or web addresses from official websites or letters.


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