HMRC has issued a warning to be aware of fraudsters in the run up to the approaching 31 January self assessment deadline.
The government organisation reported that it received nearly 900,000 reports from the public regarding suspicious HMRC contact, including emails, texts and phone calls. Over 100,000 of these were phone scams and the pubic reported over 620,000 incidents of bogus tax rebates.
Some of the most common techniques used by fraudsters include phoning taxpayers and offering a fake tax refund or pretending to be HMRC by texting or emailing a link which will take customers to a fraudulent page, where bank details and money can be stolen. There are also many incidents of fraudsters threatening people with arrest or imprisonment if a bogus tax bill is not paid immediately.
HMRC operates a dedicated customer protection team to identify and close down scams but it is advising customers to understand the signs to help avoid becoming victims. HMRC and banks will never contact customers asking for their bank details, PIN or passwords. You should never give out private information, respond to text messages, download attachments or click on links in such emails or texts.
John McCaffery, tax partner at Alexander & Co Chartered Accountants explains “We are often contacted by clients who receive fraudulent communications of this nature. Our advice is to never reply directly. Clients can contact us if they are uncertain about correspondence or calls, they have received.
“If anyone else is unsure of any communications they receive, they can forward details of suspicious calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC to [email protected] and texts to 60599.
“Many people delay completing their self assessments, leaving them to the last minute. Whilst this can lead to mistakes and errors in rushing to meet the deadline and avoid fines, it also leaves people more vulnerable to falling victim of a fraud attack. Anyone looking for assistance in completing their self assessments or for more general tax advice, should contact our tax department without delay.”