A warning has been issued following hundreds of thousands of reports from taxpayers being contacted by suspected cyber-scammers. Over the previous year these criminals have been contacting the unassuming public through text, calls and emails, all claiming to be acting on behalf of HMRC.
The reports of phone scams increased by almost 50% in comparison to the previous 12 months, with a total of 306,219 reports received – 44,543 phone scam reports were received in October 2020 alone. On top of this, HMRC reported almost 500,000 taxpayers were contacted, supposedly by the authority themselves, in regards to tax rebates.
HMRC has also reported over 15,000 web pages to various internet providers. These are all sites claiming to be part of, or linked to, the authority. The public are being warned of such sites, particularly those which are charging for Government services.
Ahead of the self-assessment deadline on the 31st January 2021, HMRC have set out to remind individuals and businesses of the warning signs in communications. They have provided some key points to look out for on the gov.uk website in spotting these self-assessment scammers.
It seems that these fraudsters are targeting taxpayers mostly by phone, offering a bogus tax rebate. But they are also phishing through email and text, supplying the viewer with a link that supposedly goes to the HMRC website but instead is opening the viewer up to have their personal data, bank details and money stolen.
As has often sadly been the case, the scam-artists are targeting the vulnerable. Often threatening arrest and imprisonment if they do not receive immediate payment for a completely made up tax bill. It is important to make sure that the public is aware of the targets of these nefarious operations, with the elderly being extremely vulnerable.
Although there is a dedicated team for Customer Protection, HMRC are calling for the general public to be even more aware of these scams. The weeks leading up to self-assessment see an influx of reports, this is where taxpayers need to be more vigilant and recognise the signs of fraudulent communications in order to protect themselves against this wrongdoing.
- HMRC will never contact taxpayers asking for their passwords, PIN or bank details.
- Do not give out sensitive information over text or email.
- Don’t download or open attachments if it is unexpected or you don’t know what it is.
If you suspect or are unsure, it is better to resist and refuse the requests to give information. Scammers will pressure and rush you for details you don’t feel comfortable sharing – don’t respond, hang up.
If you would like to receive more information on identifying and avoiding scams, HMRC provide an article dedicated to arming the public with more knowledge: Identify HMRC related scam phone calls, emails and text messages
Taxpayers are encouraged to report any suspected fraudulent activity. To report, forward texts, emails or the details of suspicious calls to firstname.lastname@example.org or the information can be sent by text to 60599.