We recently heard from a client who'd received a very convincing email from HMRC. It turned out to be a scam. And the latest crop of HMRC scams aren't confined to email...

You might want to think twice before acting on messages left by the tax service, as HMRC reveals it received 84,549 reports of fraudulent tax refund messages in March 2018 alone....

The tax investigation call...

smartphone.jpgThe latest trick in the con artists’ bag exploits a big fear for the self-employed – a tax investigation. According to the charity Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, scammers cold call taxpayers and leave an automated voicemail. The crooks say they’re investigating the taxpayer for non-payment of taxes – and to press ‘1’ to make an immediate payment, or call a number to discuss their situation straight away. The crooks then ask for the victim’s bank details to pay these outstanding ‘taxes’.

The Sun has also reported that the criminals even go as far as to threaten a criminal investigation if the taxpayer doesn’t call back, and may tell them that their home is under surveillance.

The scam’s effective because HMRC do call self-employed taxpayers and leave automated messages. But keep in mind that HMRC will use a reference number you recognise, and they’ll rarely discuss something like a tax investigation out of the blue.

HMRC has told of other phone scams involving a call promising a tax refund – the criminals will then ask for your bank or card information over the phone.

So if you’re asked to provide personal, payment or bank details over the phone, first try to verify the caller’s ID. If you can’t do that, you should end the call immediately. You can always call HMRC using official contact details to find out if it was them.

Tax refund, owing and rebate scams by email

This type of email is relatively common; in 2017-18, HMRC received 771,227 reports of tax refund, tax owed  and rebate scams.

While refunds do happen, remember that HMRC will never send notifications for tax rebates, refunds or personal or payment information by email.

HMRC advice is not to reply with your personal information. The emails will usually contain a link to a website that asks for personal and payment details, so be careful not to click it. Check the sender information for anything suspect. And if the email asks you to download a PDF attachment, don’t do it. Forward any dodgy emails to phishing(at)hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and then delete them.

Text messages from HMRC

scam.jpgClosely related to dodgy emails are text messages saying you’re owed money. When it’s a notification flashing on your phone, it can be easy to get carried away by the idea of an upcoming windfall.

While HMRC do send texts, they’ll never ask for personal or financial information that way. Don’t open any of the links in the message and don’t reply with any personal or financial information.

You can forward details of the message to HMRC on 60599 or email it to phishing(at)hmrc.gsi.gov.uk.

A message from HMRC customer service on social media

There’s a scam doing the rounds where people are offered refunds via direct messages on social media. But bear in mind thatHMRC will never ask for personal or financial information over social media. In fact the scam messages aren’t from a genuine HMRC social media account, so it’s a good idea to check credentials, too.

If you don’t know who the message is from, HMRC recommends you report the message to the phishing(at)hmrc.gsi.gov.uk email address – then delete it.

Third-party companies promising refunds

Not quite a scam, although i could be.. We're aware there are a number of companies which entice taxpayers by saying they can get them a tax rebate or refund – for a fee.

HMRC says that they’re not linked with these companies, so be aware that any rebate promises might be unfounded. Before taking out their services, you should check all the terms and conditions; read the small print and carefully go over any disclaimers.

An email to say goods are being held at customs, or money is due

computer-3368242__340.jpgThese emails are known as ‘419 scams’. They usually ask for personal details or a payment in exchange for make-believe items, like lottery winnings, seized goods being held at customs, and inheritance payments.

While it might be easy to dismiss supposed lottery winnings, some taxpayers might fall foul if they’ve recently ordered items online from abroad. The scammers might include the name of a real HMRC employee to make the email seem legitimate.

Remember that HMRC won’t ask for personal information over email. As above, don’t chance it – HMRC can verify any emails if you send them to phishing(at)hmrc.gsi.gov.uk.