Don’t get caught out by HMRC scammers
By PaperRocket Accounting, Feb 6 2019 12:41PM
The never-ending January has finally done just that and ended. The madness of personal tax deadline has come and gone, and everything seems to have settled down. But this is exactly the time that scammers will choose to target their unsuspecting victims in an attempt to con you out of your hard-earned money. So, now is as good a time as any to make sure you’re clued up on the latest scams involving HMRC, so you don’t fall foul of their shady tactics.
Telephone call or voicemail scamming
As I write this blog, I myself have a voicemail on my phone from a fraudster (an ‘Officer Sarah Wilson’) saying they are from HMRC. They say that money is owed and that if I do not call them back, I must ‘prepare for the legal consequences’. However, a quick google of both the telephone number that the message is from, as well as the details of the voicemail proved to me that it was indeed a scam.
Unless you are 100% sure that who you are speaking to is indeed HMRC, it is best not to liase with these people, especially if you are not expecting such a call. You can always put the phone down, and then ring HMRC on a verified telephone number, so that you know you are speaking to a genuine HMRC advisor and check with them the legitimacy of the original phone call. It is very unlikely that in the event of a refund, a lawsuit or the like, that HMRC would not have previously written to you about this.
Emails and text message scamming
Another prolific scam is the receipt of emails or text messages informing you that you are entitled to a rebate and requesting you to input your personal details to obtain it.
On the HMRC website, they say ‘we’ll never send notifications of a tax rebate or refund by email, or ask you to disclose personal or payment information by email. Don’t visit the website within the email or disclose any personal or payment information’. They also advise that if a PDF is attached to the email, NOT to download that either.
Some common email addresses used for such scams are:
And it’s not only HMRC that they will try to pretend to me. I have received numerous text messages over the last few months telling me I have won a TV, a mystery prize and even £70,000 from various different sources, all asking me to click on a link. They are now even able to slot the fraudulent messages into a legitimate message trail that you may already have with a company. It is always advisable to never click on a link in a message unless you are certain of its sender, and if in doubt, contact the alleged sender via a different method to check it’s veracity.
Social media scamming
In this day and age, it’s not just via telephone and email that the scammers can try and con you. There are now even reports of direct messages being sent on Twitter offering tax refunds in return for personal information. HMRC are categorical in their response to this, saying ‘these messages are not from genuine HMRC social media accounts and are a scam. We would never offer a tax rebate or request personal or financial information via a social media direct message’. So, if you receive this type of message, don’t click on any links, delete and ignore.
HMRC request that if you ever receive any such correspondence, that you send the details to email@example.com to help with their investigations into these scams.
Unfortunately, scammers are getting more and more sophisticated these days. As mentioned above, they can make messages appear as though they are coming from legitimate numbers, as well as phone calls. Realistically, we can never be prepared for every scam they can come up with. But, the best way to prepare yourself is just to make sure you keep your head about you in such situations. Follow the guidance above, and if you get a call or message from HMRC that doesn’t make sense, or is out of the blue and you’re just not sure, take a step back, have a google, and contact either your accountant or HMRC on a verified number to check.
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is, and if you are suddenly receiving emails/calls/messages about something that is apparently urgent (and requiring personal or financial details) that you’ve no knowledge of, you should be cautious. Never provide personal or financial details to someone who’s identity you are not 100% certain of. After all, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
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