WARNING – Self Assessment deadline signals arrival of HMRC scams

HMRC related scams are already some of the most commonly experienced by UK citizens. Now that the annual 31 January deadline is approaching and HMRC is gearing up to send 4 million legitimate texts, prepare yourself for a lot of convincing scams using the HMRC brand.

Read our advice on how best to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.

Protect your friends by sharing this article with them:

Why are we expecting HMRC scams?

Scammers wake up every morning looking for an angle to try and scam victims out of their money.  HMRC related scams are consistently a successful scam technique as they are applicable to most people in the UK.  Most adults are taxpayers and do receive messages from HMRC so scammers try to exploit that familiarity.

At this time of year however, many people are actively looking out for HMRC related communications which creates an opportunity for scammers.

Nearly 800,000 tax-related scams  were reported in the last year.

HMRC send over 4 million legitimate emails and texts during this period, so scammers use this cover to disguise themselves as authentic communication and try to dupe victims out of personal or financial information.

What might the scams look like?

HMRC tax scams come in many different shapes and sizes. In 2022, they will come through the telephone, email, text messages and, sometimes, WhatsApp.

Telephone in particular is becoming more prevalent.  In 2021, HMRC received 327,044 reports of phone scams, 21% up on the previous year. Read more from HMRC.

 

Telephone Scams

HMRC has published a few examples of the types of scams they are aware are being used.  One example is an automated phone call which tells you HMRC is filing a lawsuit against you and press 1 to speak to a case worker to make payment.  HMRC have confirmed this is a scam and guided people, if received, to end the call immediately.

HMRC also warn of tax refund telephone calls where the scammer offers you a tax refund and just need your bank or credit card information in order to send it. If you receive this call, hang up and contact HMRC directly here to confirm if the refund is genuine.

 

Email Scams

Firstly, HMRC will never send notifications by email about tax rebates or refunds. Do not click on any links, open any attachments or disclose any personal or payment information if received.

Clicking on links in spam emails can cause viruses and give scammers access to your machine. We talk more about this here.

If it feels genuine but you are unsure, you can forward it to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk, then make sure you delete the email.

An example of an HMRC phishing email is below:

This email includes a link which directs you to this, believable, phishing website

Once you have entered your personal or financial information, the scammer has you.

 

Text Message Scams

HMRC will never ask for personal or financial information via text messages. If you receive a message asking for personal or financial details at all, do not click on the link or reply to the text; instead go to this page and contact HMRC directly if you are unsure.

You can report scam text messages by forwarding them to 60599.

Below is an example of what an HMRC scam text message might look like:

Learn more about how to block spam text messages in our article here.

 

WhatsApp Scams

We wanted to include this for completeness but the advice here is very simple.  HMRC do not use WhatsApp so if you receive any communication through WhatsApp claiming to be from HMRC, it is a scam.  Delete it and block it.

 

What should you do about them?

We have given specific advice advice above for each channel the scammers use, but there are some general habits and things you can do to keep yourself protected.

  1. Join the IPS Community group on Facebook where members share with each other the latest scams they are receiving so you are aware of the current trends.
  2. If you haven’t already, create a free account with IPS and gain access to our weekly scam alert system where we share the most common scams seen each week so you are always aware and protected.
  3. Get protection – scams are now the most commonly experienced crime in the UK accounting for 1 in 3 of all crimes.  Learn more about the IPS 360 Protect subscription here.
  4. Learn more about some behavioural changes you can make here.

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said:

“Never let yourself be rushed. 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.

Scams come in many forms. Some threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion, others offer a tax rebate. Contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so if you are in any doubt whether the email, phone call or text is genuine, you can check the ‘HMRC scams’ advice on GOV.UK and find out how to report them to us.”

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