HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is warning millions of Self Assessment customers to be aware of fraudsters in the run up to the 31 January deadline.
Over the last year, HMRC received nearly 900,000 reports from the public about suspicious HMRC contact - phone calls, texts or emails. More than 100,000 of these were phone scams, while over 620,000 reports from the public were about bogus tax rebates.
Some of the most common techniques fraudsters use include phoning taxpayers offering a fake tax refund, or pretending to be HMRC by texting or emailing a link which will take customers to a false page, where their bank details and money will be stolen. Fraudsters are also known to threaten victims with arrest or imprisonment if a bogus tax bill is not paid immediately.
HMRC operates a dedicated Customer Protection team to identify and close down scams, but is advising customers to recognise the signs to avoid becoming victims themselves. Genuine organisations like HMRC and banks will never contact customers asking for their PIN, password or bank details. Customers should never give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in texts or emails which they are not expecting.
Customers are urged to take action by forwarding details of suspicious calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC to firstname.lastname@example.org and texts to 60599. Customers who have suffered financial loss should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or use their online fraud reporting tool.
Gareth Shaw, Head of Money, Which?, said: “The number of people targeted by HMRC scams is staggering and the problem is only likely to get worse as the self-assessment deadline looms. Sophisticated tactics like number spoofing see innocent people losing life-changing sums everyday – so banks, telecoms companies and firms being targeted must collaborate on developing solutions to halt this worsening crime.
“Victims of HMRC scams often end up being tricked into transferring money to a criminal, and while a new industry code is in place offering greater protections against transfer fraud, the next government must make this mandatory to ensure all payment providers are signed up to these vital measures. Meanwhile, the banking industry and regulators must urgently agree a reimbursement fund that ensures all innocent victims have their money returned should they be affected by this devastating crime.”
Image credit: HMRC