A bit of a strange one today with this Fake HMRC email campaign. The delivery has been messed up so I have no idea whether it was supposed to be a phishing scam or a malware delivery campaign.
An email with the subject of Unsuccessful submission for Reference 475-VB22516 pretending to come from HMRC but actually coming from a range of compromised or hacked sites and email addresses.
The email domain these are sent from is also the URL in the email body that will redirect to the fake HMRC site
You can now submit suspicious sites, emails and files via our Submissions system
HMRC has not been hacked or had their email or other servers compromised. They are not sending the emails to you. They are just innocent victims in exactly the same way as every recipient of these emails
So far I have been sent 2 copies via our submissions system. I am sure there will have been dozens if not hundreds of compromised emails and sites sending these and diverting to the fake HMRC site.
One of the emails looks like:
From: Gateway Confirmation <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu 21/06/2021 14:05
Subject: Unsuccessful submission for Reference 475-VB22516
Unsuccessful submission for Reference 475-VB22516
The submission for reference 475-VB22516 was successfully received but unfortunately failed HM Revenue & Customs data checks and could not be accepted.
Please use the link below to view your submission, correct it and send again.
View submission for reference 475-VB22516
If you continue having problems, please contact the Online Services Helpdesk.
Telephone 0300 200 3600, Textphone 0300 200 3603 or email email@example.com
We are open:
Monday to Friday – 08.00 to 20.00
Saturday – 08.00 to 16.00
(We are closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day).
Fake HMRC email
Following the link leads eventually to https://hmrconline.org/notice.php which gives a totally blank page. Looking at the source of the page, we can see that the phishers / scammers / malware bad actors have copied the genuine HMRC site but for some unknown reason have completely missed out the body content. You can see from the screen shot of the source code that the headers of the page are complete but there is nothing inside the body tags
source code of fake HMRC page
The base URL https://hmrconline.org is an identical copy of the genuine HMRC home page on the gov.uk domain. All the links go to the genuine gov.uk pages, so they have just copied the content completely complete with all images & links.
Whatever they were trying to do has failed completely.
hmrconline.org was registered on 20 June 2021 using a Chinese Registrar http://www.now.cn/ and hosted by OVH on 184.108.40.206
All the alleged senders, amounts, reference numbers, Bank codes, companies, names of employees, employee positions, email addresses and phone numbers mentioned in the emails are all random. Some of these companies will exist and some won’t. Don’t try to respond by phone or email, all you will do is end up with an innocent person or company who have had their details spoofed and picked at random from a long list that the bad guys have previously found. The bad guys choose companies, Government departments and organisations with subjects that are designed to entice you or alarm you into blindly opening the attachment or clicking the link in the email to see what is happening.
Please read our How to protect yourselves page for simple, sensible advice on how to avoid being infected by this sort of socially engineered malware.
Be very careful with email attachments or following links in emails . All of these emails use Social engineering tricks to persuade you to open the attachments that come with the email. Whether it is a message saying “look at this picture of me I took last night” and it appears to come from a friend or is more targeted at somebody who regularly is likely to receive PDF attachments or Word .doc attachments or any other common file that you use every day.
The basic rule is NEVER open any attachment to an email, unless you are expecting it. Now that is very easy to say but quite hard to put into practice, because we all get emails with files attached to them. Our friends and family love to send us pictures of them doing silly things, or even cute pictures of the children or pets.
Never just blindly click on the file in your email program. Always save the file to your downloads folder, so you can check it first. Many malicious files that are attached to emails will have a faked extension. That is the 3 letters at the end of the file name.
Unfortunately windows by default hides the file extensions so you need to Set your folder options to “show known file types. Then when you unzip the zip file that is supposed to contain the pictures of “Sally’s dog catching a ball” or a report in word document format that work has supposedly sent you to finish working on at the weekend, or an invoice or order confirmation from some company, you can easily see if it is a picture or document & not a malicious program.
If you see JS or .EXE or .COM or .PIF or .SCR or .HTA .vbs, .wsf , .jse .jar at the end of the file name DO NOT click on it or try to open it, it will infect you.
While the malicious program is inside the zip file, it cannot harm you or automatically run. When it is just sitting unzipped in your downloads folder it won’t infect you, provided you don’t click it to run it. Just delete the zip and any extracted file and everything will be OK.
You can always run a scan with your antivirus to be sure. There are some zip files that can be configured by the bad guys to automatically run the malware file when you double click the zip to extract the file. If you right click any suspicious zip file received, and select extract here or extract to folder ( after saving the zip to a folder on the computer) that risk is virtually eliminated.
Never attempt to open a zip directly from your email, that is a guaranteed way to get infected. The best way is to just delete the unexpected zip and not risk any infection.