COVID-19 Tax Refund Phishing Attacks Offering Fake U.K. Government Grants



Fake U.K. Government GrantsResearchers at Forcepoint describe an unusual phishing attempt that purported to come from the UK’s tax office, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The email itself was clearly a phishing template. It informed recipients that the government was offering grants between £2,500 and £7,500 to workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it contained a link for the user to check their eligibility for such a grant. The email itself was sent from “hmrc[@]hm.com,” a domain belonging to the multinational clothing retailer H&M.

Despite these obvious signs of a phishing attack, the link in the email led to a strange banking site that appeared to be still under development and had no apparent phishing functionality.

The researchers finally traced the original email to a phishing campaign using emails that offered a government grant worth £3,650. These emails contained an HTML attachment, which, when opened, would present the user with a form with fields for the victim to enter their name, date of birth, address, employer, National Insurance number, Unique Tax Reference number, passport number, mobile phone number, and email address. If the victim filled out this form, all of this information would be sent to the attacker.

Forcepoint also identified newer versions of this scam that use more convincing forms that mimic HMRC’s real website. After the user fills out this form, they’ll be redirected to an official UK government site.

“Phishing attempts similar to the one we described above are nothing new,” the researchers conclude.. “In these challenging times people might make decisions in a faster or different way they normally used to. Cybercriminals are especially counting on this behaviour when they spam out emails with financially promising content. Whenever you receive such, make sure you always take the time to validate the sender and the actual content prior to committing to any action.”

New-school security awareness training can enable your employees to identify these types of scams before they click on a link or download an attachment.

Forcepoint has the story: https://www.forcepoint.com/blog/x-labs/tax-refund-phishing-scams


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