HMRC update on scams

18 May 2020

Due to the ongoing situation relating to the outbreak of coronavirus, and the significant increase in the number of scams that have been appeared over the past few weeks, HMRC’s Customer Engagement Team has provided an update on the topic, to remind customers to be vigilant and to alert them to the types of scam that are currently in circulation.

HMRC is a popular target for scammers as it is a renowned organisation with a clear and recognisable brand. HMRC-branded tax scam campaigns run throughout the year but peak at certain times, in line with key business events. One such period is around the Self-Assessment tax return deadline in January each year.

There is a dedicated Customer Protection Team at HMRC, which works to prevent scams in several ways, which has meant that, over three years, HMRC has dropped from 14th to 146th most-phished brand in the world. The team’s activities include:

  • Automatically identifying cyber scams ahead of receiving customer reports
  • Instructing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to remove malicious content from websites
  • Preventing misleading and / or malicious content from reaching the public
  • Alerting the public to scams by sharing details and examples of both genuine and false HMRC communications
  • Providing channels through which people can report suspicious communications. Suspicious emails should be forwarded to [email protected], and texts sent to 60599
  • Working alongside the telecoms industry to identify abuses of the words in texts that can be used in place of 11-digit 07 numbers, and getting them blocked automatically
  • Working alongside national and international law enforcement organisations

Coronavirus related scams

Unfortunately, unscrupulous scammers will always take advantage of people in vulnerable situations, and the outbreak of coronavirus has left many people feeling more vulnerable than usual.

Criminals are targeting the range of measures introduced by the government to support the economy and individuals through the outbreak of COVID-19. More than 70 Covid-related financial scams have already been identified by HMRC, which have predominantly been sent by text message, but some have been circulated via email. Over 500 web pages associated with Covid-related scam campaigns have already been removed.

In order to alert more people to the types of scam currently in circulation, HMRC is running a radio advert campaign on the topic, and also posting relevant information on a range of social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

HMRC is continuing to work closely with the Home Office, National Cyber Security Centre and a variety of other government departments to stop the spread of these scams.

The resounding message from HMRC is to be alert, be calm and be secure. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication. For all the latest information, news and resources on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting payroll professions, visit our Coronavirus hub.