ATM :: Be wary of fake I-T refund emails

Govt steps up security to check criminals seeking bank details of taxpayers
Tinesh Bhasin | Mumbai | May 3, 2016 Last Updated at 22:36 IST | Business Standard


The next time you get an email from the Income Tax (I-T) department stating that it wants to refund you some money, don’t be delighted — be cautious.

In all likelihood it would be from cyber criminals trying to trick you into revealing your bank details.

Taking a note of such cyber frauds, the I-T department have sought help from the country’s premier cyber security agency, Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), to block these hackers lurking in the e-world. The department is particularly worried after taxpayers recently brought to its notice certain emails which have very cleverly spoofed the department’s identity by using almost resembling addresses to cheat gullible taxpayers.

Email spoofing helps them change their email address to any that they wish. In some cases, victims received emails even from the

“There’s a rise in such emails lately and they are often sent during the tax filing months,” said Amit Jaju, executive director, fraud investigation and dispute services, EY India. He explains, the victims usually receive an email that informs individuals of an unclaimed refund. It, then, asks the person to click on a link to verify his details and processing of the fund. Once the person clicks on the link, he is taken to a website that looks like it belongs to his bank. An HDFC Bank or an SBI Bank customer will be taken to the respective fake websites.

“Surprisingly, in many cases, people are taken to the actual bank they use. This means, the fraudsters have a database of target’s email address and the bank account,” says Jaju.

In some cases, when the person clicks on the link, he is taken to a fake I-T website that’s identical to the original, according to Saloni Verma, associate director, IT security, risk advisory, BDO India. Gullible taxpayers end up giving all their bank account details. You can also receive a fake I-T notice asking to pay up outstanding tax demand and be redirected to the fake I-T website.

But, recognising such fraudulent emails is not difficult. You just need to be alert. The first thing to look at is the email address, according to Jayant Saran, partner and national leader for forensic technology at Deloitte India. He explains the email might seem to be originating from but many service providers, such as Gmail, inform the user if it actually originates from this website or not. You will see that such emails will have ‘via’ right after the email address and then the name of the server. This means that the email was sent via another mail service. “Never download file attached in such emails as it can also install malicious software,” says Saran.

If you happen to the link provided in the email, which takes you to the fake website of the bank or I-T department, check the address of the website. It will not be the same as your bank’s or I-T department’s. Whenever you are transacting online, check if the address starts with HTTPS rather than HTTP and should have a closed lock sign. This means that the website is secure and verified. The best way to cut risk is to use a licensed antivirus software.

Bank account details should never be sent through an email and one should contact the respective organisation in case of any such requests. There are even provisions to report the phishing attempts at organisation’s websites such as the I-T department website.

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