Tax-payers cautioned about scammers posing as HMRC ahead of the Self-Assessment tax return deadline

18 November 2020

HMRC is advising those individuals who are due to complete their Self-Assessment tax return that they should be aware of scammers attempting to take advantage of the upcoming deadline to pressure customers into sharing their personal and / or financial details.

These scammers often purport to be from HMRC, and use a variety of methods of contact, including calls, emails and texts. HMRC is actually sending out SMS messages and emails to encourage individuals to complete their Self-Assessment tax return by the deadline of 31 January 2021, but there are also communications being distributed by unscrupulous scammers, which tax payers should be alert to.

Over the course of the last 12 months, HMRC has investigated over 846,000 referrals of potentially fraudulent contact from the general public and has had to report more than 15,500 unsafe webpages to internet service providers, to have them removed. 500,000 of the communications involved the offer of false tax rebates.

Tax payers are reminded of how can they can report any activity that they deem to be suspicious by emailing HMRC at [email protected] or by sending texts to 60599. Phone scams can also be reported on Gov.UK.

Criminals use language that aims to persuade individuals to disclose personal information, including their bank details. This information is then used to access bank accounts, to trick individuals into paying bogus tax bills or it is sold on to other criminals.

Karl Khan, HMRC’s Interim Director General for Customer Services, said:

“We know that criminals take advantage of the Self-Assessment deadline to panic customers into sharing their personal or financial details and even paying bogus ‘tax due’.

If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, offering financial help or asking for money, it might be a scam. Please take a moment to think before parting with any private information or money.”

Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, commented:

“Criminals are experts at impersonating organisations that we know and trust. We work closely with HMRC to raise awareness of current scams and encourage people to report any suspicious calls or messages they receive, even if they haven’t acted on them, to the relevant channels.

This information is crucial in disrupting criminal activity and is already helping HMRC take down fraudulent websites being used to facilitate fraud.

It’s important to remember if you’re contacted out the blue by someone purporting to be from HMRC asking for your personal or financial details, or offering you a tax rebate, grant or refund, this could be a scam.

Do not respond, hang up the phone, and take care not to click on any links in unexpected emails or text messages. You should contact HMRC directly using a phone number you’ve used before to check if the communication you have received is genuine.

If you’ve been the victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and please report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.”

There is also a warning that there are certain websites that charge for government services that are actually free, which are known as call connection sites. Some companies even charge people for help in getting tax refunds. Tax refunds can be claimed, free of charge, through an individual’s Personal Tax Account.

 

There are ways that tax scams can be identified, and something could be a scam if:

 

  • It is unexpected
  • It offers a refund, tax rebate or grant
  • It requests personal information, such as bank details
  • It is threatening
  • It instructs the transfer of money

 

Tips are provided on how to avoid falling victim to scams, and individuals are advised to:

 

  • Stop – think before providing information and / or money, and don’t reply to text messages, or download attachments or click on links in texts and emails that have arrived unexpectedly
  • Challenge – It’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests – it is only criminals that will attempt to rush or panic individuals. There is information on how to avoid scams available on Gov.UK, which details how to recognise genuine HMRC correspondence and how to avoid and report scams
  • Protect – forward suspicious emails to [email protected] and texts to 60599. Anybody who believes they have been subject to a scam should contact their bank and report it to Action Fraud

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