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Warning issued over HMRC tax scam: nearly 900,000 reports of suspicious contact over the last year

2-minute read

Sam Bromley

22 November 2019

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HMRC has warned millions of self-employed people to watch out for scammers in the run up to the 31 January Self Assessment deadline.

One of the most common scams involves fraudsters pretending to be HMRC. They do this over the phone, by text or over email.

Here’s how to spot a scam and what to do when you find one.

What scams are HMRC warning against?

HMRC says that it’s received a massive 900,000 reports of suspicious contact over the last year.

Out of those 100,000 were phone scams while 620,000 involved bogus tax rebates. These calls or messages promise a tax refund – and to receive it, you have to hand over your payment details.

Here are some of the most popular scams:

  • tax refund and rebate scams – fraudsters offer a bogus refund and ask you to hand over your details so they can transfer it to you. Sometimes you’ll be directed to a fake website – this is known as a ‘phishing’ attack. HMRC will never send notifications about tax rebates by email or ask for personal details over text
  • phone calls – fraudsters may call you offering a tax refund, or even ask you to pay a bogus tax bill. HMRC says that scammers sometimes threaten you with a lawsuit, arrest or imprisonment if you don’t pay the bill straight away – which means it’s right to be suspicious of heavy-handed contact
  • WhatsApp and social media scams – HMRC says that WhatsApp messages purporting to be from the taxman are actually scammers. HMRC says it won’t use social media to offer a tax rebate or request personal information
  • refund companies – there are companies that say they can apply for a refund from HMRC on your behalf. But they’re not official and you should read the small print before you go ahead

What should you do if you’re not sure?

HMRC has a Customer Protection team that hunts out and shuts down scams. But the tax body says you should take steps to make sure you don’t fall for a scam in the first place.

  • HMRC and other organisations like banks won’t contact you and ask for personal details like your PIN, password or bank details – so be suspicious if you get a call or message asking you to give them out
  • if you’re not expecting an email or text (for example, one offering you a refund), don’t give out personal information, click on the links, or download attachments
  • if you spot a scam HMRC email or phone call, forward details to [email protected] (and send scam texts to 60599). If you’ve suffered financial loss because of one of these scams, you should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or use their online fraud reporting tool

Gov.uk has examples of scam HMRC communications so compare what you’ve received against those if you’re not sure.

Image credit: gov.uk example of a fake HMRC website.

Have you ever fallen victim to a scam? Let us know in the comments below.

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