We have compiled as extensive guide to help you spot tax scams and know how to report them. We also offer some useful tips to help you protect yourself.
How to spot scams
Scammers act as HMRC to trick you into giving them your personal details and money. Telephone calls account for almost half of reported scams, while offers of tax rebates make up almost half of reported scams.
Scams can promise a tax refund, ask for personal and bank details, or threaten you with a lawsuit or arrest. These frauds can be highly effective and may appear authentic but there are certain things to look for.
- Email address of sender – does this contain a series of letters and numbers and does not come from a @gov.uk email address?
- Spelling mistakes – spelling and grammatical mistakes could be a tell-tale sign of fraudulent correspondence.
- A QR code on a letter from HMRC should take you to the gov.uk website for guidance. Never click a link if it is taking you somewhere other than this website as it is likely to be a phishing scam.
- Text messages from HMRC may include a link to the gov.uk website, or to HMRC webchat.
- HMRC will never ask for personal information by text message.
- HMRC does not use WhatsApp to contact customers about tax refunds. Anything received in WhatsApp supposedly from HMRC is a scam.
- HMRC will never use social media direct messaging to contact customers about tax rebates or ask for personal information.
- HMRC will never send an email regarding tax rebates or refunds. Don't click email links, open attachments, or share personal information or bank details.
- A call stating HMRC is filing a lawsuit against you is a common scam and you should end the call immediately. If you can't confirm who the caller is, don't provide any information and hang up.
- Correspondence asking you to pay the customs duty on a delivery may be a scam. If you're not expecting a delivery, this will not be genuine.
- You should never enter personal information on any website you do not believe is authentic.
Tips to protect yourself from scammers
1. Do not a click
Do not click instantly on links in emails, or text messages. Before clicking you should check the preview of where the link is taking you – does it look genuine? On a laptop or desktop computer you can hover the cursor over links to help you spot anything unusual in the URL. Can you find the website yourself instead of clicking the link to ensure it’s the correct place?
2. Don’t open attachments
Do not open any attachments purportedly sent by HMRC by email, they are too risky and could lead to .
3. Don’t respond directly
If you receive a text, email or call from HMRC do not respond directly. Instead use the telephone number on HMRC’s website.
4. Don’t share card details
Do not enter your card details into any system as this may allow scammers to take money from your account. Receiving a tax rebate is great, but don't accept one too quickly if you weren't expecting it.
5. Don’t succumb to pressure
If someone pressures you to do something you're not sure about, pause and consider what they're asking you to do. Scammers use pressure and the sense of urgency to meet deadlines to rush you into making hasty decisions.
6. Were you expecting correspondence?
If you weren’t expecting a call from HMRC, it’s unlikely to be genuine. Therefore, it is OK for you to hang up if you're not feeling comfortable. You can call HMRC back on their published telephone number.
7. Consult your accountant
If you’re new to self-assessment and unsure what to expect, use a reputable adviser. You can check with them if correspondence you receive is genuine.
8. Complete your tax return early
Complete your self-assessment tax return early. This means you know where you stand and aren’t under any pressure. You’ll also have more time to check correspondence to ensure it’s genuine.
9. Check published example of scams
HMRC publishes examples of known scams online. You can use the examples to see whether the correspondence you’re receiving is real.
10. Be suspicious and report
Several third-party companies will offer their services in claiming tax refunds and rebates on your behalf. They are not working with HMRC so use these services with caution and read the small print.
Scammers are clever and are continually devising new ways to get around your defences and access your personal information or bank details. It isn’t just emails and phone calls, so always remain vigilant of anything unusual.
If you suspect that someone claiming to be HMRC has involved you in a phishing attack, email [email protected]. text 60599 or call Action Fraud immediately on 0300 123 2040. Action Fraud also has an online tool to report suspected online fraud.
Date published 10 Nov 2023This article is intended to inform rather than advise and is based on legislation and practice at the time. Taxpayer’s circumstances do vary and if you feel that the information provided is beneficial it is important that you contact us before implementation. If you take, or do not take action as a result of reading this article, before receiving our written endorsement, we will accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred.
Catherine Heinen, FCCA
Catherine is a Technical Content Writer at TaxAssist Accountants, and a qualified accountant. With experience working at two accountancy practices in the UK top 50 accountancy firms according to Accountancy Age, Catherine has significant experience in accounts, tax returns and advising clients. Catherine ensures businesses, business owners and individuals are kept up to date and informed by providing concise and informative technical material.
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