Warning... ‘Self Assessment customers are urged to be on the lookout for scam texts, emails and phone calls from fraudsters. This warning comes as HM Revenue and Customs ( HMRC ) received more than 130,000 reports about tax scams in the 12 months to September 2023, of which 58,000 were offering fake tax rebates.’ Source: Gov.uk 17 Oct 2023
We were shocked when we read these figures, 130,000 reports about tax scams and that is only the people that took time to notify HMRC of their experience! Please be highly vigilant when it comes to any correspondence that you receive with regards to your finances, but particularly at this time of year with the tax return deadline looming.
Here are 5 ways to spot fake HMRC false or scam correspondence.
1. Fake HMRC email address
These can be tricky to spot, as fraudsters often use addresses that look official at first glance, containing words like Revenue, HMRC, and gov.
The key to spotting whether the address is real or not is to hover over the ‘from’ address. The actual link the text leads to will not end in @hmrc.gov.uk (which all official emails from HMRC will).
2. Tax rebate offers
If you get an HMRC tax refund email, it's almost certainly a scam. Emails from HMRC will never offer you any repayment, tell you about a tax rebate, or ask you to send personal information (such as an address or bank details).
3. Request for immediate action
Fraudsters will often try to scare you into complying by telling you that you need to do as they ask quickly, or face the consequences.
Emails that use phrases like ‘you only have three days to respond’ or ‘urgent action required’ are likely to be scams, so don’t fall for the scare tactics and contact HMRC if you’re unsure.
4. Bogus links and dodgy attachments
Any emails that contain links to a web page or have an attachment should be treated suspiciously. The links may go to a site that looks like the real HMRC homepage, but will ask you to input personal information so they can steal it.
Similarly, don’t open any attachments that you aren’t expecting. These could contain viruses that will give scammers a backdoor into your computer and allow them to make off with personal information on you, as well as your clients or customers.
5. Beware generic greetings
Be wary of emails that start ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, ‘Dear customer’ or simply ‘Hello’, rather than your name, as they’re highly likely to be fraudulent. Emails from HMRC will address you by your name.
Customers can report any suspicious communications to HMRC:
forward suspicious texts claiming to be from HMRC to 60599
forward emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
report tax scam phone calls to HMRC on GOV.UK.
In the 12 months to September 2023, HMRC responded to 60,000 reports of phone scams alone and got 25,000 malicious web pages taken down.
If you are looking for more information on phishing and how you can avoid falling victim, visit the National Cyber Security Centre website https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/collection/phishing-scams
Finally, if you have any concerns about information and communication that you receive from HMRC and you would like a second opinion, get in touch and we can talk things through with you. Call our office on 01788 815017.