Paul Aplin, tax partner at AC Mole warns to proceed with caution and watch out for scam emails.

Great news: you receive an email from H M Revenue & Customs to say that they have processed your tax return and a refund is due. What do you do? My advice is to delete it straight away. HMRC will never email you about a personal tax rebate.

You would never fall for it of course, but many people do and in my experience they are the very ones you would least expect to. Why?

Because the people behind these scams know exactly how to take advantage.

The emails can look very professional. You see them at the end of a long day when you are tired, or when you have just returned from holiday or when you are in a hurry and you click on the link without realising it is a fraud. By the time you realise, it is too late. 

With the tax return filing deadline looming, we can expect an increase in such scams over the next couple of weeks: what could be more natural when you have just filed your tax return than to receive an email from HMRC? That is exactly what the fraudsters want you to think, so be extra vigilant.

Email scams are not restricted to tax. Always hesitate if you receive an email asking you to click on a link to make a payment, asking you to make a payment electronically, or asking you to open a message in your browser.

Even if you are expecting a request for a payment, pausing to reassure yourself it is genuine – and picking up the telephone to make sure if you are in any doubt – is better than being caught by a scammer who may just know more about you than you realise.

Whether you are an individual or in business, these threats are very real and ever present.

In addition to being vigilant over emails, it is essential to have good security software installed on your IT equipment and to keep it up to date.

Passwords should be used on all devices and the passwords should be strong, not predictable and should be changed periodically. 

We live in an increasingly digital world and because HMRC wants more of us to deal with our tax online, it is launching digital tax accounts and will soon require businesses to keep digital records. The need to take online security seriously has never been greater.