HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has issued a warning to the UK’s small business community regarding a string of fake websites that are targeting 240,000 unknowing small firms across the country.
Online fraudsters are posing as HMRC and attempting to trick business owners into paying for so-called “UK trader numbers” as part of the UK’s European Union (EU) exit preparations.
With suggestions of a no-deal departure from the EU for the UK, fake websites are being designed aimed at businesses that currently trade goods within the EU.
These platforms are pretending to represent HMRC and are imploring business owners to register for a “UK trader number” to continue trading in the event the UK exits the EU without a deal.
Not only are the fake websites illegally using HMRC’s official logo to appear legitimate, they are charging businesses to register for their UK EORI number – a service that is completely free with HMRC.
A UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number is currently required to trade goods into or out of the UK from countries outside of the EU.
If the UK exits the EU without a deal, from 11pm GMT on 29th March, the same will apply for UK businesses when trading with EU countries.
A HMRC spokesman said: “We are aware of several suspicious websites claiming to help businesses register for a UK trader number as part of their EU Exit preparations.
“We have a well-known brand, which others can and do abuse to add credibility to their scams.
“The public should go direct to gov.uk to obtain genuine HMRC contact numbers and to submit requests to HMRC.
“People should be alert for sponsored ahttps://www.gov.uk/guidance/get-a-uk-eori-number-to-trade-within-the-eudverts and websites charging for government services which would be expected to be free.”
VAT-registered businesses applying for a free EORI number will need their VAT registration number and their registered business name.
Businesses that are not VAT-registered and are planning to submit an EORI import or export form will require the following information:
- UK address
- Email address
- Your date of birth
- Your National Insurance number