The UK tax body has warned customers to watch out for fraudulent tax rebate emails and texts after a year in which nearly 800,000 tax-related scams were reported.
The warning comes as HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is preparing to send more than four million emails and SMS text messages to self assessment customers ahead of the 31 January 2022 deadline, prompting them to pay their tax bill and pointing them to guidance and support if they are unable to pay in full.
However, HMRC has warned that scammers typically use this time to try and steal money or personal information from unsuspecting individuals and it is urging customers not be taken in by malicious emails, phone calls or texts. In the last year, almost 800,000 tax-related scams were reported, of which nearly 360,000 were bogus tax rebate referrals.
"If someone contacts you saying they're from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard," said Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC's director general for customer services.
"HMRC will also never ring up threatening arrest. Only criminals do that. Scams come in many forms. Some threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion, others offer a tax rebate. Contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so if you are in any doubt whether the email, phone call or text is genuine, you can check the 'HMRC scams' advice on GOV.UK and find out how to report them to us."
Criminals often mimic government messages to make them appear authentic. HMRC is also reminding self assessment customers to double check websites and online forms before using them to complete their 2020/21 tax return.
Customers can report suspicious phone calls, emails and texts on the government website.
HMRC's advice to the public is:
- Take a moment to think before parting with your money or information;
- If a phone call, text or email is unexpected, don't give out private information or reply, and don't download attachments or click on links before checking on GOV.UK that the contact is genuine;
- Do not trust caller ID on phones. Numbers can be spoofed;
- It's ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests - only criminals will try to rush or panic you;
- Go to GOV.UK for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact and how to avoid and report scams;
- Contact your bank immediately if you think you've fallen victim to a scam, and report it to Action Fraud.
Written by Rachel Miller.