With the self-assessment tax deadline on 31st January upon us, it is alarming to hear that HMRC still receives hundreds of thousands of reports of suspicious calls, texts and emails every year. This is a busy time for fraudsters who prey on unsuspecting taxpayers.
Unfortunately, despite the publicity and warnings, some people are still being taken in by these malicious contacts so it’s still worth the fraudsters’ efforts. Here are the most common types of tax scams to be aware of, according to the consumer rights organisation Which?
- Text message tax scams
One of the most common types of scam is a fake notification from HMRC about a tax refund or that you owe money and there is a warrant for your arrest. The fraudsters running these scams make the text message look like it has been sent from HMRC rather than a random number. The message will ask you to click on a website link to leave your personal details. They can also install malware on your computer to steal your identity and/or your money.
Although HMRC contacts taxpayers by text message at times, it will never ask for personal or financial details and never inform customers about tax refunds by text or email.
What to do with this scam: Never respond to a message about a tax refund and don’t open the web link in the message – forward the text to 60599 or email email@example.com then delete it.
- Phishing email tax scams
At this time of year, phishing emails become even more prevalent. They have become much more professional-looking and appear to come from an HMRC or government email address. The email can even have the signature of a genuine HMRC employee, gone are the days of poor spelling and grammar mistakes making it easy to spot these scams.
The main purpose of these emails is to steal money from your bank account, collect personal information to sell to other fraudsters for identity theft or to get you to send money.
What to do with this scam: To check if an email you receive is genuine, visit the HMRC website where it updates all the communications that are being sent out. There are also tips there to help you identify if the email is fake.
- Scam phone calls
HMRC does not offer tax rebates over the telephone, by email or by text so these calls and messages will always be a scam. The person on the phone will ask for your bank details to make the refund and they can sometimes use threatening tactics to pressurise you to share your details.
What to do with this scam: If you can’t verify the identity of the caller, don’t engage in a conversation and simply end the call. Beware of callers who advise you to call your bank to verify their call – they can stay on the line for up to two minutes and pretend to be your bank too.
To keep you and your data safe, remember these simple rules:
- HMRC will never ask for your personal or financial details via text, email or on the phone so if you’re being asked, be very suspicious and hang up or delete the messages.
- Don’t click on the links within an email or text. If you want to check out a website, navigate to it via your internet browser.
- Scammers will try and pressurise you – don’t engage with them. Use your common sense and if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
HMRC has more advice and guidance for spotting fake communications and you can report scams to HMRC on its website.