Fraudsters are targeting taxpayers with phone calls, texts and emails in the run up to the 31 January self-assessment deadline.
The public notified HMRC of nearly 900,000 incidences in the last year of suspicious activity under the guise of HMRC contact, including 100,000 phone scams. Over 600,000 notifications related to fraudulent tax rebates. Direct mail is less usual, although a recent example did involve a letter using the HMRC logo and an actual tax office address and phone number asking for direct debit payment details to clear a self-assessment balance.
More commonly scammers will phone offering a fake tax refund, or email or text a link purporting to be from HMRC to a fake website. Anyone entering personal bank details will end up having their money stolen. In the most egregious examples, taxpayers have been threatened with arrest if they don’t immediately make a payment.
While HMRC has a dedicated Customer Protection team working to identify and close down scams brought to its attention, it asks taxpayers to be alert to the proliferation of such fraud techniques and take sensible precautions.
HMRC, and other financial institutions such as banks, do not contact you asking for PIN numbers, passwords or your banking details. If you receive an unexpected text message or email with a link or attachment, do not open it or give out your private information.
As increasing numbers of people manage their banking and finances using mobile apps, especially students and young people, they are particularly vulnerable to plausible sounding information about potential refunds.