Fraudsters claiming to be from HM Revenue & Customs are targeting the self-employed in a scam circulating amid the coronavirus lockdown.
Hundreds of thousands of self-employed workers and freelancers are currently waiting on the government to announce an emergency package to support them through the current pandemic and market turmoil.
But FTAdviser has learned criminals are seeking to take advantage of this situation by attempting to defraud the self-employed with a promise of a lump sum payment.
FTAdviser understands a scam text message has been circulating purporting to be from HMRC and offering a lump sum of money to freelancers and the self-employed in the current economic climate.
The message contains a link which asks for bank details to complete the transaction.
HMRC told FTAdviser it was aware of fraudsters taking advantage of Covid-19 to offer spurious financial support and tax refunds.
An HMRC spokesperson said: "They text, email or phone taxpayers offering the bogus refund or aid, or threaten them with arrest if they don’t immediately pay fictitious tax owed. These scams often target the elderly and vulnerable.
"If someone texts, emails or calls claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it’s a scam."
Richard Taylor, a politician and campaigner based in Blaenau Gwent, Wales, said he had been contacted by a number of people this week who had received the text message.
Mr Taylor said: "At a time of national crisis people must remain vigilant as criminals will seek any opportunity to take advantage of this crisis by cunning and fraudulent means.
"The text messages claim to be from HMRC with a link for a cash payout for the self-employed. There are no levels these criminals will not go to."
The government is set to announce further details on a Covid-19 package for the self-employed today, with an amendment added to the Coronavirus Bill earlier this week proposing statutory self-employment pay.
The proposals would see the government cover the lower of £2,917 or 80 per cent of a self-employed person's monthly earnings, averaged over the last three years.
The prime minister faced a grilling from MPs in the House of Commons yesterday over delays to the measures, which one MP warned had left constituents without income and "deeply concerned".
What do you think about the issues raised by this story? Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know.