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HMRC update: tax phone scams have increased by 21%

2-minute read

HMRC update: tax phone scams have increased by 21%
Sam Bromley

Sam Bromley

25 November 2021

A new HMRC update says that phone scams have increased 21 per cent on last year, with nearly 800,000 tax-related scams reported in total. Around 360,000 of those have been fake tax rebates.

In the lead up to the Self Assessment deadline on 31 January 2022, the self-employed should be on their guard. Here’s what to watch out for – and how to protect yourself.

HMRC warning around Self Assessment season

As the self-employed get ready to send their tax return this time of year, HMRC starts to send out emails and texts to taxpayers to offer them guidance and support.

HMRC says that more than four million messages were sent out about Self Assessment during the week of 15-21 November.

But as communication from HMRC increases, so does the potential for people to believe that malicious contact is genuine.

Scammers will pretend to be from HMRC or another government body to trick the self-employed into handing over money, or their personal and financial details. They might promise a tax rebate, or threaten arrest for tax evasion.

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said the key is not to rush: “If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard.

“HMRC will also never ring up threatening arrest. Only criminals do that.”

How do I work out whether HMRC contact is genuine?

HMRC has a list of reasons it will contact you and the methods it will use to reach you. Here’s how to check whether HMRC contact is genuine.

You can report suspicious messages by:

HMRC says that it has a dedicated team working on cyber and phone crimes. But the most important step is prevention.

How to avoid HMRC scams during Self Assessment

HMRC says that during Self Assessment, you should double check forms and websites before using them to do your tax return. You can find genuine forms at gov.uk. One way to check websites is to see whether the URL looks genuine and secure.

The tax body has also issued stop, challenge and protect guidance to the public:

Stop

  • don’t feel rushed to part with your money, or your personal and financial details
  • if you’re not expecting contact, don’t click on links or give out private information
  • caller ID on phones can be spoofed, so don’t automatically trust this

Challenge

Protect

  • report suspicious messages to HMRC to help protect others from falling for the scam
  • if you’ve given money or details away, get in touch with your bank straight away and report it to Action Fraud (in Scotland, contact the police on 101)

Will you be watching out for HMRC scams leading up to the Self Assessment deadline? Let us know in the comments below.

Photograph 1: Antonioguillem / stock.adobe.com/uk

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