Tobacco crime – not to be sniffed at

Over 7 million illegal cigarettes and 478 kg of hand rolling tobacco have been seized by local Trading Standards within the Central England Trading Standards Authorities (CEnTSA), Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service can report.

The cigarettes and tobacco were seized in the last financial year (2017/2018) with a loss to the tax payer of nearly £2million. The total retail value of the illegal goods is estimated to be worth in excess of £3million. The amount of illegal product seized has increased year on year in recent years, with the amount of illegal cigarettes seized last year being almost 30% higher than a record seizure figure the previous year.

The seizures were often well hidden, in sophisticated concealments using electronic magnets controlled by a switch, hydraulic compartments in floors, false back to a fridge, as well as cavity wall compartments. Such hiding places are difficult to detect without the aid of specialist tobacco sniffer dogs.

All offending businesses are subject to criminal investigation, with some traders already being successfully prosecuted. Some have received financial penalties, others, suspended prison sentences and community orders.

In addition, some shops have had their alcohol licences suspended or revoked for dealing with illegal tobacco products.

Warwickshire County Councillor Andy Crump, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said: “Far from being a victimless crime, the illegal tobacco trade creates a cheap source for children and young people. Whilst all tobacco is harmful, the illegal tobacco market, and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes, undermines government health policies aimed at reducing the cost to the NHS of treating diseases caused by smoking. The loss to the tax payer means less money being spent on local communities, schools and the NHS.’’

Bob Charnley, Chairman of CEnTSA said: ‘‘More and more people over the past few years have decided enough is enough and are providing information to Trading Standards, to stop local criminals selling and distributing illegal tobacco. Combating illegal tobacco has become an increasing priority for Trading Standards. The illegal tobacco trade has strong links with crime and criminal gangs, including drug dealing, money laundering, people trafficking and even terrorism. Selling illegal tobacco is a crime.”

Mr Charnley added ‘‘retailers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach, adapting their methods in order to avoid detection. Some businesses had gone to great lengths to conceal the illegal tobacco in secret compartments, including hydraulic lifts in floors, false walls and fridges. You may hide it, but we will find it.’’

Illegal tobacco products can usually be easily recognised. They will be very cheap, often less than half the price of legitimate packets and often have foreign writing on them.

Anyone being offered cheap tobacco or any other types of illicit goods should report it to Trading Standards by calling the CEnTSA’s confidential fakes hotline on 0300 303 2636.

Household appliances recalled due to fire risk – GOV.UK

List of household appliances recalled due to fire risk since 2010.

Documents

Details

Manufacturers notify the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of a product that has been recalled because of a safety risk.

Each document provides information on the:

  • type of product
  • manufacturer
  • reason for its recall
  • what you need to do if you own this product

You can also find out about guidance on how to check latest recalls, register your appliance and who to contact for more information on product safety on the government’s Acting on product safety website.

Source: Household appliances recalled due to fire risk – GOV.UK

Two-factor authentication: Everything you need to know! | iMore

How do you protect your photos, messages, and more from being hacked or stolen online? With two-factor authentication!

Two-factor authentication: Everything you need to know!

Hackers are too good, and security systems flawed. Longer complicated passwords created by generators like Safari’s iCloud Keychain or third party apps like LastPass or 1Password can help, but the best way to lock down your accounts is to add extra security options for two-step or two-factor (2FA) authentication. Here’s how to go about it.

What is two-factor authentication?

Two-factor authentication is the most prevalent way to secure your accounts: It asks you to authenticate that you are who you say you are by supplying not only your password, but a unique code supplied from your phone or an external app. It ensures that those accessing your accounts have access to your physical devices as well as your virtual passwords, and makes a simple password crack or social engineering hack a lot more insufficient when it comes to accessing your personal data.

What’s the difference between two-factor authentication and two-step verification?

They’re commonly used interchangeably, but two-factor traditionally requires two different types of authentication. That can include something you know (password), something your are (fingerprint), or something you have (Bluetooth dongle). Two-step verification, on the other hand, can use the same type of information delivered by different sources. For example, a code you remember (password) plus a code you’re sent over SMS (token).

Two (or more) factors can be more secure, but two steps are typically enough for most online accounts. It’s a better version of the old “security questions”. It not only helps you avoid needing to remember your random answers, but it also removes the risk of relying on potentially easy-to-find information.

Why is two-factor authentication so important?

Passwords are weak, broken, and by all accounts, outdated: Having to remember a random assortment of numbers, letters, and possibly (but not always) other characters can be tough on your memory and easy for attackers to compromise, especially when technology like Touch ID exists. Apps like 1Password or LastPass can help with organizing and memorizing your passwords and even help you create super-long strings, but you’re still reliant on a single password to keep you safe. Two-step/two-factor authentication requires two different keys to log you into your account, significantly amping up the level of difficulty for any would-be hackers to access your personal information.

What accounts can I set up with two-step verification or two-factor authentication?

Over the past few years, lots of web services and banks have hopped aboard the multiple authentication methods bandwagon — more than we can properly list. The folks over at Two Factor Auth, however, have kindly put together a master list of services that support two-step verification or two-factor authentication, along with links to how-to documents, what methods of two-factor authentication they support, and how to contact a service you use to request that they implement two-factor authentication.

Here at iMore, we’ve put together a bunch of articles on some of the most popular services that support two-step/two-factor authentication — as well as the easiest ways to set it up — to help you keep your accounts safe and away from prying eyes.

What if I lose my phone (or have it stolen)?

One of the big fears with SMS or code-based two-factor authentication is the potential loss of your primary authentication device: If you don’t have your phone, you can’t get SMS messages, et cetera. Thankfully, most services offer recovery keys or special passcodes that can unlock your account in case you don’t have access to your cell phone at the present moment. Make sure to write these down in a safe place; I use 1Password’s secure notes feature for this, and also store a hard copy in my office.

Need more help with two-step verification or two-factor authentication?

Running into trouble setting up two-step verification or two-factor authentication? Have a question about turning two-step or two-factor on for your favorite service? The iMore Forums are a great place to get advice and help from other members of our community; you can also ask a question in our Q&A forum and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Source: Two-factor authentication: Everything you need to know! | iMore

What does the NCSC think of password managers? – NCSC Site

Android password screen

People keep asking the NCSC if it’s OK for them to use password managers (sometimes called password vaults). If so, which ones? Who should use them – private citizens, small businesses, massive enterprises? And how should people use them? Is it safe to put all your crucial passwords into a password manager, and forget trying to remember any at all?

This is a big topic, so we’re chunking it up. This blog explains what I think about password managers in general, and how I use them myself. This might be helpful if you’re an individual deciding whether and how to use a password manager for your personal use. If you’re looking for business use, this blog post won’t hold all the answers you need (look out for more from the NCSC on this soon).

Should I use a password manager?

Yes. Password managers are a good thing.

They give you huge advantages in a world where there’s far too many passwords for anyone to remember. For example:

  • they make it easy for you to use long, complex, unique passwords across different sites and services, with no memory burden
  • they are better than humans at spotting fake websites, so they can help prevent you falling for phishing attacks
  • they can generate new passwords when you need them and automatically paste them into the right places
  • they can sync your passwords across all your devices, so you’ll have them with you whether you’re on your laptop, phone or tablet

All these things are full of win. They reduce security friction – making security easier and more convenient.  If security is difficult, tedious, appears to add no value or gets in the way of the main task we’re trying to do, then we tend to find (insecure) ways around it. And then we end up less protected.

Well, that all sounds great. Where’s the catch?

You might be thinking “If password managers are this good, why haven’t you recommended them before now?”

Well, they do have some drawbacks:

  • Password managers are attractive targets in themselves. They’ve been successfully attacked in the past, and realistically they will be again. So all your passwords could get stolen in one go.
  • If you forget the master password for your password manager, you will not be able to get back in. You will have to try and access all your accounts individually, or recreate/reset them from scratch. This will hurt.
  • You can’t use them for everything. Some service providers (such as certain banks) don’t support the use of password managers. If you tell them you’ve put your banking passwords into one (or written them down in any way at all) they might not give you your money back if you are the victim of cyber crime. If your bank is one that takes this stance, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to manage critical passwords without writing them down. On the brighter side, this is much easier to do once you’ve got most of your passwords out of your head and into the password manager.

Should I use a browser-based password manager?

Many web browsers now come with password managers built in, and they can be a very good choice. They are very convenient to use, as they are fully integrated with the web browser – so they know when you’re on a website that needs a password, and they just pop up and do their thing. You don’t even have to remember a separate master password. So feel free to use the built-in password manager, provided that:

  1. You keep your web browser up-to-date.
  2. You have some kind of access control on your device such as a PIN/password/biometric…two things you should be doing anyway!

One drawback with browser-based password managers is that your passwords may not automatically sync between all your devices if these use different operating systems. So, if you have a Windows laptop, an iPad and an Android smartphone, your passwords may not follow you around everywhere – unless you use the same web-browser on all your devices and log into it. Also, if more than one person uses a device on the same user profile, they would all have access to the same password-protected content. You may not want that.

Should I use a standalone password manager?

Compared to browser-based managers, standalone password managers tend to do a better job of keeping your passwords available to you on all your different devices, no matter what platform they’re on. They give you a little more control over when and where you use your passwords, as you get to press a button to say ‘I want to use the password please’, rather than the web page in the browser requesting one when it feels like it.

Importantly, with a standalone password manager you do have to create and remember a long master passphrase (unlike with a browser-based one). Standalone password managers may also include more advanced features, such as:

  • notifications about compromised websites
  • flagging up reused or weak passwords
  • prompting you to change old passwords*
  • helping you change passwords for some websites, by integrating with your browser
  • multi-factor authentication

How do I do this, then?

As with many things, there are lots of different ways of going about this. This is what I do myself:

  1. First, try and cut down the number of passwords in your life, and reduce how much you rely on those passwords to prove who you are. Use multi-factor authentication or single sign-on where available. For infrequently-used passwords, use a password reset mechanism when you need to log in (instead of making any attempt to recall or store the password). But take really good care of the email account that the password reset emails are sent to.
  2. Consider biometrics. Fingerprint readers on smartphones are generally good enough to protect your phone and the data on it, and they are very usable. So feel free to use them. Turn on encryption (if it’s not already on) for extra protection.
  3. Decide whether to use a browser-based or a standalone password manager. Personally, I use both, for different things.
  4. If you use a standalone password manager, make its master passphrase the best you possibly can. We suggest a passphrase rather than a password as it’s much easier to make it really long, and adding length gives much more protection than adding complexity. Make it hard for someone who knows you to guess in 20 attempts, and make it totally different from any password or passphrase you’ve ever used anywhere else.
  5. Memorise your passphrase. Yes, you really do have to, sorry! If it helps, write it on a piece of paper until it’s firmly lodged in your memory. Keep the piece of paper very safe, and destroy it when you’ve memorised the password.
  6. Don’t put any work passwords into your personal password manager unless you’ve got permission from your employer.

Finally, think about how important each password is to you for each account. If someone discovered this password, would it result in

  • your life being ruined?
  • your bank refusing to refund any losses?

If the answer to either is ‘yes’, then I wouldn’t put it in a password manager. For these cases, a password shouldn’t be the only thing that the security of your account rests on. So look at extra defences such as multi-factor authentication.

For other, less important accounts, having the password stolen might be massively inconvenient, but there would be no real permanent damage done. Passwords for these accounts should be OK to go into your password manager.

Some accounts have very low value. For instance, an online forum that requires a password, but doesn’t actually hold any personal information you care about. These passwords can be stored in a password manager without a second thought.

A future without passwords?

Long-term, I think the success of password managers shows  – yet again –  that password-based authentication has outstayed its welcome. Passwords are supposed to be ‘something you know’, but now we’re saying the best way to manage them is not to know them (because your password manager knows them all for you). Passwords have taken us a long way, but now it’s really time to move on.

The NCSC is working to help us all reduce our reliance on passwords, and to move towards a future where we make greater use of better, more secure, more usable authentication mechanisms instead. In the meantime, we’re also working on some guidance on how best to use password managers in organisations – look out for this soon.

Password managers are a good thing – for now. But we hope not forever.

Source: What does the NCSC think of password managers? – NCSC Site

Cyber Safe Warwickshire – Cyber Criminals are Sending Victims Passwords In New Sextortion Scam

Cyber criminals are sending victims their own passwords in an attempt to trick them into believing they have been filmed on their computer watching porn and demanding payment. Action Fraud has provided the following information and advice. 

There have been over 110 of reports made to Action Fraud from concerned victims who have received these scary emails.

In a new twist not seen before by Action Fraud, the emails contain the victim’s own password in the subject line. Action Fraud has contacted several victims to verify this information, who have confirmed that these passwords are genuine and recent. The emails demand payment in Bitcoin and claim that the victim has been filmed on their computer watching porn.

An example email reads:

“I’m aware, XXXXXX is your password. You don’t know me and you’re probably thinking why you are getting this mail, right?

Well, I actually placed a malware on the adult video clips (porno) web site and guess what, you visited this website to experience fun (you know what I mean). While you were watching video clips, your internet browser started out working as a RDP (Remote Desktop) with a key logger which gave me access to your display screen as well as web camera. Just after that, my software program gathered every one of your contacts from your Messenger, Facebook, and email.

What did I do?

I made a double-screen video. First part shows the video you were watching (you have a nice taste omg), and 2nd part displays the recording of your webcam.

Exactly what should you do?

Well, I believe, $2900 is a fair price tag for our little secret. You’ll make the payment by Bitcoin (if you do not know this, search “how to buy bitcoin” in Google).

BTC Address: 1HpXtDRumKRhaFTXXXXXXXXXX

(It is cAsE sensitive, so copy and paste it)

Important:

You now have one day to make the payment. (I have a special pixel within this email message, and now I know that you have read this e mail). If I do not receive the BitCoins, I will definately send out your video recording to all of your contacts including close relatives, co-workers, and many others. Nevertheless, if I receive the payment, I’ll destroy the video immidiately. If you need evidence, reply with “Yes!” and I will send your video to your 10 friends. It is a non-negotiable offer, therefore do not waste my time and yours by responding to this message.”

Suspected data breach

Action Fraud suspects that the fraudsters may have gained victim’s passwords from an old data breach.

After running some of the victim’s email addresses through ‘Have i been pwned?’, a website that allows people to check if their account has been compromised in a data breach, Action Fraud found that almost all of the accounts were at risk.

Last month, fraudsters were also sending emails demanding payment in Bitcoin, using WannaCry as a hook.

How to protect yourself

  • If you receive one of these emails, delete it and report it to Action Fraud.
  • Don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision: paying only highlights that you’re vulnerable and that you may be targeted again. The police advise that you do not pay criminals.
  • Secure it: Change your password immediately and reset it on any other accounts you’ve used the same one for. Always use a strong and separate password. Whenever possible, enable Two-Factor
  • Do not email the fraudsters or make the payment in Bitcoin.
  • Always update your anti-virus software and operating systems regularly.
  • Cover your webcam when not in use.

You can also find out more information about Sextortion on our advice page here

Source: Cyber Safe Warwickshire – Cyber Criminals are Sending Victims Passwords In New Sextortion Scam

Contactless payment security, concerns and considerations | lovemoney.com

Contactless payments offer a fast and easy way to pay for goods in-store, but is it really as safe as they claim, and how can you keep yourself safe when using contactless?

The big contactless payment fraud myth

Many banks and consumers assume that contactless fraud is where money is stolen from your contactless card directly. It’s a theory seemingly backed up on social media every few months with images (as below, from Tumblr) and warnings posted of supposed fraudsters carrying Chip & PIN machines, stealing from seemingly oblivious members of the public.While this sounds, in principle, like a valid concern, it would be incredibly difficult for criminals to operate such a machine without being noticed almost immediately.

There are myths about how easy contactless card fraud can be carried out (Image; Tumblr)

Chip & PIN machines need to be registered with a payment vendor and linked to a bank account before they can be used to charge cards – like how you need to register your mobile phone’s SIM card with a network before you can make a call. Since every transaction is monitored for fraudulent activity, and applying for such a device is a lengthy process with many safeguards to stop fraudulent uses, it’d be incredibly risky for any criminal to do this without drawing an incredible amount of attention to themselves.

Contactless “skimming” is a fraud risk

Contactless payment fraud image (Image: Shuttrstock)

While there may be no hard evidence of contactless based fraud, this doesn’t take into consideration if card details are stolen via contactless for later use – better known as “skimming”. Using widely available technology, or even a smartphone app, criminals can wirelessly read data from your contactless card without charging you a penny. In most cases, the data includes the full 16-digit card number, the card type (Visa, MasterCard, or similar), the issuing bank, the expiry date, the card owner’s name, and in some cases (worryingly) a mini-bank statement. With this data, it’s possible for criminals to create a cloned card with the original card details for use at older ATMs, shops, or even websites with poor security checks. Alternatively, they could simply collect thousands of card details with the intention of selling them on to the highest bidder. As there’s no financial transaction taking place, there’s no record of how many times it’s been read wirelessly, where it was read, by whom, and what their motive was.

Lost and stolen cards can still work months after cancelling

Contactless card fraud: hackers can use cancelled cards (Image: Shutterstock)

When contactless payments were first rolled out, concerns were raised about pickpockets and thieves being able to use a stolen card, without verification, to make high-value purchases. Reporting a card lost or stolen, and reporting any suspicious activity on your bank statement immediately should theoretically block that card from being used fraudulently. However, there have been mixed reports from members of the public that their cards continued to work long after being reported as lost or stolen. Banks have complex security limitations in place to detect fraudulent contactless transactions, but consumers should keep an eye on their bank statements and flag transactions they don’t recognise immediately – even if the card has been cancelled. You should also keep an eye on your credit report for suspicious transactions.

What about ApplePay and Google Wallet?

Apply Pay and Google Wallet: how safe are they? (Image: Apple, Google, loveMONEY)

When contactless payments first made their debut on smartphones concerns were raised about the security of card details being stored on, and transmitted from, a smartphone. The initial fear was that instead of a malicious person reading card details wirelessly from a wallet – which tends to reside in a limited number of secluded places, such as a pocket or a bag – they could read them from a phone – an item we tend to carry more publicly. Fears surrounding this potential threat quickly subsided, however, as the technology was showcased to only work in the specific context of paying for goods. In the case of ApplePay, for example, card details are only transmitted when the phone detects a Chip & PIN machine that is requesting payment, it requires either a passcode, or thumbprint, to complete the transaction, and the 16-digit card number transmitted is semi-randomised per transaction. These features give contactless payments via a phone another level of security in cases where the phone is either stolen, or a receipt is dropped at the point-of-sale terminal displaying the full card number.

Keep yourself safe from contactless fraud

Contactless payments offer a convenient way for consumers to pay for goods but, like most technology, come with a handful of security concerns that everyone should be aware, but not scared, of. With that in mind, here are some top tips to help keep yourself safe from contactless-based fraud:

  • RFID-blocking wallets, or a few sheets of thick tinfoil, will block any wireless signal from leaving your wallet without your knowledge;
  • Some banks offer non-contactless cards to their customers, but you have to ask. Contactless is very much the standard issue these days;
  • Using systems like ApplePay and Google Wallet give an extra level of security when paying and don’t transmit your card details without your consent;
  • Report any cards that are lost or stolen immediately to your bank, and keep an eye on your bank statement for suspicious transactions.

Source: Contactless payment security, concerns and considerations | lovemoney.com

Cyber Safe Warwickshire – Over 100,000 Scam Calls To Elderly Blocked In A Year

 The success comes as a result of a scheme which gave vulnerable and elderly people devices which block the phone calls. More than 100,000 scam phone calls to the vulnerable and elderly have been blocked in a year, as a result of a £500,000 project, announced by Prime Minister Theresa May last April, saw 99% of unwanted calls halted. Thousands of devices were given to people at risk, including those with dementia. Between May 2017 and April 2018 108,918 calls were not accepted. The devices will not allow recorded messages, silent calls and calls from numbers not pre-identified by the homeowner. Eight in 10 had felt worried and 60 per cent felt threatened or scared. After the blockers were installed this fell to 17 per cent and 10 per cent.

Trading Standards’ Louise Baxter said: “Nuisance phone calls have a huge impact on emotional and physical health, not to mention financial losses.

Digital Minister Margot James said: “We are determined to end the plague of nuisance calls ruining elderly and vulnerable people’s lives. Only last month we laid out plans to make bosses of rogue companies personally liable for up to £500,000 if their firm breaks the law.”

It is estimated that over five years the 1,500 call blockers given out will save consumers and taxpayers £18million.

TOP TIPS

  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is
  • Never give out your bank details or send money unless you are certain you can trust the person who has contacted you
  • If you receive a sales call you have not requested, be suspicious
  • Neither your bank or the police would collect a bank card, ask for your PIN or come to your home to collect financial paperwork
  • You shouldn’t have to pay money to receive a prize
  • You shouldn’t have to pay money via Ukash or Western Union to claim mis-sold PPI
  • If you are put under pressure to make an immediate decision be suspicious and politely decline
  • Computer firms do not make unsolicited calls to help fix your computer
  • Register with the telephone preference service on 0845 070 0707 to block unwanted calls
  • If you’re still concerned, consider installing call blocking technology to reduce nuisance calls

Source: Cyber Safe Warwickshire – Over 100,000 Scam Calls To Elderly Blocked In A Year

Nude selfies: a parents’ guide – subtitled

Teenagers tell us that sharing sexual pictures and videos is not unusual. It can be risky but don’t panic, there are steps you can take if things get out of control.

f you’ve found out your child has shared a revealing pic or video, don’t panic. There are plenty of ways to stop things getting out of hand.

Watch these short films for advice on what to do next:

Understanding why

It’s important to keep things in perspective and plan how to talk to your child. Remember, however stressed and anxious you are feeling, they are probably feeling more so. Watch this film to find out how one parent coped.

Nude Selfies: Understanding Why – subtitled

Talking to your child

It’s a good idea to have ongoing conversations with your child about sex and relationships including nude selfies. It might be a bit embarrassing at first but this film suggests some ways to start it off.

Nude Selfies: Talking to your child – subtitled

When should I be worried?

Young people share nude selfies for different reasons and in different ways, and some situations are less risky than others. This film will help you risk-assess your child’s situation. 

Nude Selfies: When should I be worried? – subtitled

Where to get help

Find out about organisations which can help you and your child.

Nude Selfies: Where to get help – subtitled

New Sentencing Guidelines For Revenge Porn, Stalking & Harassment

People found guilty of repeatedly uploading revenge porn will face the toughest punishments when new sentencing guidelines come into force.

It is the first time the Sentencing Council for England and Wales has given instructions to courts on dealing with those who humiliate others by uploading private sexual images and videos.

They also include guidelines for stalking and harassment cases.

The offence of disclosing private sexual images without consent – known as “revenge porn” – was introduced in 2015 and carries a maximum sentence of two years.

In 2016/17, there were 465 prosecutions for the offence in England and Wales.

What The Guidelines Suggest:

  • Offenders who repeatedly post explicit material after it has already been taken offline should receive the harshest sentences, there is a trend of some offenders doing this.
  • Those who set up fake social media accounts to embarrass their targets will also face stronger punishments, as they show “significant planning” has gone into the offence, says the council.

Also covered are a range of “intimidatory” offences, including stalking and harassment.

In these cases, tougher sentences are recommended by the council if there are aggravating factors, such as:

  • abusing a position of trust
  • sending grossly violent material to the victim
  • impacting others, such as children.

Coercive Control

The guidelines also take into account the crime of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship – which can see offenders facing up to five years in jail.

This was introduced as an offence in December 2015 to tackle repeated domestic abuse, such as controlling victims over social media, spying on them online, stopping them from socialising or stopping their access to money.

The guidelines say that behaviour that results in debt or homelessness will be a possible aggravating factor, meaning a stronger sentence.

The guidelines will come into force on 1st October 2018.

Help & Support

Record number of fake HMRC websites deactivated – GOV.UK

HMRC has removed more than 20,000 malicious websites during the past year, but warns people to stay alert to the threat from online fraudsters.

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New figures show that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) requested a record 20,750 malicious sites to be taken down in the past 12 months, an increase of 29% on the previous year.

Despite a record number of malicious sites being removed, HMRC is warning the public to stay alert as millions of taxpayers remain at risk of losing substantial amounts of money to online crooks. The warning comes as Scam Awareness month, run by Citizens Advice, draws to a close.

HMRC has brought in cutting edge technology to tackle cyber-crime and target fraudsters. However, the public needs to be aware and report phishing attempts to truly defeat the criminals. Today (30 June 2018), ministers are urging people to take action to protect themselves as well.

Genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact people out of the blue to ask for their PIN, password or bank details. So people should never give out private information, download attachments, or click on links in emails and messages they weren’t expecting.

People should forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and texts to 60599.

They can also contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls, or use its online fraud reporting tool.

Treasury Minister Mel Stride MP, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:  “The criminals behind these scams prey on the public and abuse their trust in government. We’re determined to stop them. HMRC is cracking down harder than ever, as these latest figures show. But we need the public’s help as well. By doing the right thing and reporting suspicious messages you will not only protect yourself, you will protect other potential victims.”

The most common type of scam is the ‘tax refund’ email and SMS. HMRC does not offer tax refunds by text message or by email.

HMRC has also been trialling new technology which identifies phishing texts with ‘tags’ that suggest they are from HMRC, and stops them from being delivered. Since the pilot began in April 2017, there has been a 90% reduction in people reporting spoof HMRC-related texts. This innovative approach netted the cyber security team with the Cyber Resilience Innovation of the Year Award in the Digital Leaders (DL100) Awards.

In November 2016, the department implemented a verification system, called DMARC, which allows emails to be verified to ensure they come from a genuine source. The system has successfully stopped half a billion phishing emails reaching customers.

HMRC has also saved the public more than £2.4 million by tackling fraudsters that trick the public into using premium rate phone numbers for services that HMRC provide for free. Scammers create websites that look similar to HMRC’s official site and then direct the public to call numbers with extortionate costs. HMRC has successfully challenged the ownership of these websites, masquerading as official websites, and taken them out of the hands of cheats.

HMRC is working with the National Cyber Security Centre to further this work and extend the benefits beyond HMRC customers.

Source: Record number of fake HMRC websites deactivated – GOV.UK