Tax season is like Christmas for fraudsters – with panic about deadlines, reminders from HMRC and complex rules and regulations, it’s a prime time to scam people out of their money.
With the end of the tax year looming – 5 April, to be precise – here’s a guide to help you spot scams this tax season.
What does a tax scam look like?
Typically, scammers will contact you posing as HMRC. This might be a call, text or email saying you’re due a rebate or owe a fine. One of the most popular approaches is to claim you’re due a tax rebate, and HMRC need your bank account details to process the repayment.
Tax scams will aim to get access to your bank account, persuade you to send money to the fraudsters or gather enough personal information to sell on to other criminals who carry out identity theft.
Fraud techniques are becoming increasingly more complex, with scammers now able to change their phone numbers to make it seem like a call is coming from HMRC. This catches some people out by quelling their suspicions.
How to identify if it’s a scam
There are a few simple ways to identify if you’ve been contacted by scammers rather than HMRC.
Firstly, HMRC and other tax authorities will never call you asking for immediate payment over the phone, threatening legal action or offering larger rebates if you pay now. HMRC does call people about outstanding tax bills and sometimes uses automated messages, but it will always include your taxpayer reference number.
If you’re called by someone claiming to be from HMRC, you should end the call and contact them independently via their official website. Even if the phone number matches HMRC’s, it could be a scam.
HMRC will never ask for your bank account details or personal information by email or text. Common text message scams will say that you’re owed a tax refund or there’s a warrant out for your arrest because you owe HMRC money. These messages will contain links that might send you to a website to harvest your personal information or spread malware, resulting in theft of your money or identity.
If you get a text claiming to be from HMRC asking for personal details, do not respond. It’s best to delete it to make sure you don’t accidentally click on any links.
There are a few simple ways to spot scam emails. Firstly, you should check the sender’s email address – scammers will often change their name to an organisation, like HMRC, but the email address will not match up. Typos are common in scam emails, so if the grammar doesn’t sound like it would come from an official government body, it’s probably fake.
However, some more advanced scams use realistic-looking email addresses and can even include a name or signature of a genuine HMRC employee for added authenticity.
Remember, HMRC will never ask for payment or personal details over email. If you get an email claiming to be from HMRC, do not open any links.
How to avoid tax scams
If you receive any suspicious contact from HMRC, you can see their guidance on phishing scams and how to identify genuine contact here. If you’re a client of Hive Communications, please contact us before acting on any contact claiming to be from HMRC.