Be aware of scammers attempting to commit tax fraud

Nicola Sargeant

Nicola Sargeant

Tax Manager

With the tax filing deadline around the corner, it's more important than ever to be vigilant about scam emails and phishing attempts.

We all need to be careful about verifying the details of emails before we act on them, especially at busy times of year when fraudsters try to take advantage of stressed and pressured individuals!

Particularly around the tax filing deadline of 31 January, we see an increase in phishing emails pretending to be from HMRC, attempting to persuade people to share sensitive information in order to commit tax fraud.

Last year, HMRC issued a warning that criminals were targeting individuals on social media to obtain personal details, such as their Government Gateway logins and other personal details, then using this information to register for Income Tax Self Assessment and submit false tax refund claims. The individuals were promised a proportion of the tax repayment as an incentive to let the fraudsters ‘borrow’ their identities.

Customers from teenagers to pensioners can be targeted through scams like these and other phishing attempts. It's vital to stay vigilant and not to share your personal information – doing so even inadvertently can put you at risk of becoming involved in tax fraud and having to repay the full value of the bogus claim. You should only deal with HMRC directly or through your professional advisers on matters relating to your Self Assessment tax.

Avoiding scams

Fraudsters pretending to be HMRC is not uncommon, with other phishing scams including emails or phone with a recorded message stating that the caller is from HMRC and that there is a court case pending against the recipient. The message asks the recipient to either press 1 or to call back a certain number to pay the outstanding balance immediately, in order to avoid further action. Another example is a call or email claiming to offer you a tax refund and requesting your bank or credit card information to arrange this.

HMRC have pulled together a round-up of examples of phishing emails and bogus calls, along with information on how to report your experience. You can view this on HMRC’s website here.

There are a number of things you can look out for to help you recognise a phishing email or bogus SMS text message from HMRC.

Spelling mistakes and poor grammar are a good indicator of a phoney communications, and emails and SMS text messages from HMRC will never:

  • notify you of a tax rebate
  • offer you a repayment
  • ask you to disclose personal information such as your full address, postcode, Unique Taxpayer Reference or details of your bank account
  • give a non-HMRC personal email address to send a response to
  • ask for financial information such as specific figures or tax computations, unless you’ve given prior consent and you’ve formally accepted the risks
  • have attachments, unless you’ve given prior consent and you’ve formally accepted the risks

You can read more on how to spot fraudulent HMRC contact here. For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or your usual Johnston Carmichael contact.

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