Is your computer protected? Spyware alert!!

Pretty much everything has to be filed online now including VAT returns and payroll returns. This brings with it a security risk. A situation has been brought to our attention by a farming client where some malicious spyware was found on their computer. After going through the usual clean up process to remove it, the real ‘purpose’ of this software was discovered.

The spyware had collected sufficient information regarding the client’s online VAT filing information to enable the hackers to submit VAT returns. They had logged in, changed the registered bank details to their own and submitted spurious VAT returns generating a refund of over £10,000 which HMRC paid to the ‘new’ bank account details.

This is a really timely reminder to ensure that the computer(s) you use within the business are well protected with adequate (and up to date) anti-virus software and to ensure that the software runs regular checks on your computer. It also goes without saying that this includes taking precautions against disclosing
log-in details and never using public / unsecure computers to log in and submit returns as you just don’t know what information may be collected on a public computer.

It remains to be seen how straightforward (or not) it is to ensure that the refund is removed from our client’s ledgers with HMRC. We anticipate that it may (and certainly would have been if it wasn’t spotted so early) be a long process convincing HMRC that the repayment hasn’t been made to the company, or on the company’s authority, and it may delay submission of future returns and any refunds for a considerable length of time.

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