HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is warning Brits to not be taken in by scam emails, phone calls or texts, thinking that these are genuine communications referring to their self assessment tax return.
Nearly 800,000 tax-related scams were reported in the last year, according to the department.
The deadline for the Self Assessment tax return is 31 January 2022 and people may expect to hear from HMRC around this time of year as the deadline approaches.
HMRC will send over 4 million emails and SMS messages this week to self assessment customers advising them of guidance and support available, prompting them to think about how they intend to pay their tax bill, and to seek support if they are unable to pay the full amount by the deadline.
Criminals use self assessment to try and steal money or personal information from unsuspecting Brits. In the last year alone, HMRC has received nearly 360,000 fake tax rebate referrals.
In the last 12 months HMRC received 327,044 reports of phone scams in total — an increase of 21% on the previous year.
Scammers use emails, phone calls and text messages pretending to be from HMRC. The messages are often similar to government messages in format and style so as to appear authentic. The scam artists use the messages to trick their victims into handing over money or personal or financial information.
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: “Never let yourself be rushed. If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard.
“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.”
The department uses innovative technologies to try to stop scam communications from ever reaching customers. Since 2017 these technical controls have prevented 500 million emails from reaching consumers, according to HMRC.
New controls have also been introduced, preventing 90% of the most convincing text messages from reaching the public and controls have been instigated to stop the spoofing of most HMRC helpline numbers, HMRC said.
It advises customers not to trust caller ID on phones as numbers can be spoofed. HMRC said it has worked with the telecoms industry and Ofcom to remove more than 1,282 phone numbers being used to commit HMRC-related phone scams over the past year.
HMRC is also reminding self assessment customers to double check websites and online forms before using them to complete their 2020/21 tax return. Some websites fraudulently make people pay for help in submitting tax returns or charging to connect them to HMRC phone lines. HMRC advises people to visit their website for more information and use the free signposted tax return forms.
In the last year, HMRC has reported 8,561 malicious web pages for takedown.
HMRC’s advice to the public:
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.
Search ‘scams’ on GOV.UK for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact and how to avoid and report scams.
Forward suspicious texts claiming to be from HMRC to 60599 and emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Report tax scam phone calls on GOV.UK.
Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, and report it to Action Fraud (in Scotland, contact the police on 101).