In Focus: Tax Year End  

HMRC warns of fraudsters hijacking personal tax accounts

HMRC warns of fraudsters hijacking personal tax accounts
Fraudsters are using taxpayers' identities to claim bogus tax refunds (Image credit: Pixabay)

HM Revenue & Customs has warned fraudsters are seeking to steal taxpayers' personal information to claim bogus self assessment tax refunds.

The tax authority warned people not to share sensitive information online to avoid having their identities used to make these false claims.

It said it was aware that criminals were attempting to obtain customers’ Government Gateway logins and other personal details, which enabled them to register for income tax self assessment and submit bogus tax refund claims before pocketing the repayment.

Fraudsters are also targeting people on social media, promising a cut of the tax refund ‘risk-free’ if they could borrow their identities.

A cooperation like this could land the individuals themselves in trouble, HMRC warned, as they could be seen to be complicit in the fraud.

Simon Cubitt, head of cybercrime at HMRC, said: "People need to think extremely carefully before they involve themselves in an arrangement like this, because if something looks too good to be true, then it almost certainly is.

"Those who get involved risk becoming the victim of blackmail, threats of violence and wider abuse of their personal information, as criminals seek to exploit them further.

"I urge anyone who may be aware of these dishonest attempts to recruit individuals into criminality, to report it us by searching ‘report fraud HMRC’ on gov.uk and completing our online form."

In addition to their Government Gateway credentials, HMRC warned customers may also be asked to provide details of their bank account, passport, driving licence, address, date of birth, and National Insurance number.

The deadline for the 2020-21 self assessment tax return was January 31 but HMRC waived late penalties for one month to give taxpayers extra time to file the returns without facing a penalty.

HMRC said more than 11.3mn customers filed their tax return by February 28, and now have until April 1 to pay their tax or set up a pay arrangement.

The taxman is working with other law enforcement agencies and social media companies to tackle criminality on online platforms.

Last month (10 February), it arrested four individuals in Hertfordshire, Bristol, Derbyshire and Buckinghamshire as part of an investigation into suspected self assessment repayment fraud and money laundering offences. It said further investigations were ongoing.

What to look out for

Accountancy firm Rift Tax Refunds, a personal tax refunds specialist, said tax refunds were a little known and largely untapped source of annual finance.

It mainly benefits those working within the construction, training and energy sectors, as well as the military, as they work from temporary or numerous locations on a regular basis. 

Bradley Post, CEO of Rift Tax Refunds, said: “There seems to be no limit to the lengths that scammers will go to defraud the hardworking public of their money and the latest ruse is to adopt a person’s HMRC credentials and to purport to be that person when filing for tax refunds.