HM Revenue and Customs has warned people to be vigilant when completing their self assessment returns to avoid being caught out by scammers purporting to be from the tax authority.
HMRC has warned that scammers are targeting individuals to tell them about a fake tax rebate or tax refund they are due.
These fraudsters pretend to be from HMRC to convince them to hand over personal information, such as bank details, to be able to claim back this money.
They will then use this information to access the individual’s bank account, trick them into paying false tax bills or sell on their personal information to other fraudsters.
In the past 12 months, the tax authority has responded to more than 846,000 reports of suspicious HMRC contact from the public and reported over 15,500 malicious web pages to internet service providers to be taken down.
Almost 500,000 of the referrals from the public involved bogus tax rebates.
An example of a HMRC rebate scam
Karl Khan, HMRC’s interim director general for customer services, said these fraudsters take advantage of the January self assessment deadline to drum up panic in taxpayers.
Mr Khan said: “If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, offering financial help or asking for money, it might be a scam. Please take a moment to think before parting with any private information or money.”
Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “Criminals are experts at impersonating organisations that we know and trust.
“We work closely with HMRC to raise awareness of current scams and encourage people to report any suspicious calls or messages they receive, even if they haven’t acted on them, to the relevant channels.
“This information is crucial in disrupting criminal activity and is already helping HMRC take down fraudulent websites being used to facilitate fraud.”
Earlier this year (August), HMRC investigated 10,428 reports of phishing scams designed to exploit the coronavirus pandemic.
In one phishing scam, individuals were sent a text message purporting to be from HMRC informing them they were due a tax refund.
It then told the individual to apply for this refund online via an official looking site that used HMRC branding and was marketed as “Coronavirus (Covid-19) guidance and support”.
The fake site then asked for several pieces of the user’s sensitive information before requesting their passport number as verification.
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