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A wolf in sheep's clothing - beware of HMRC scams

Tom Sweeney

Tom Sweeney | Marketing Assistant

Monday 20th Jan, 2020

As the Self Assessment tax return deadline of 31st January draws closer, we thought it would be important to remind you of remaining vigilant to scammers who imitate HMRC in an attempt to steal the hard-earned money of our contractors.

There are many inventive ways in which these scammers work, through multiple channels in an attempt to trick people into a false sense of security. Read on to learn more about what to watch out for.

Tax refunds and rebate email scams

HMRC have confirmed that they will never send email notifications in relation to tax rebates or refunds. If you do receive an email of this nature, please do not visit any websites by following any links, open any attachments or pass over any personal or financial information. Instead, forward on the email to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and delete the email.

In the past, it has been easy to distinguish a fake HMRC email addresses but over time these have been adapted to look more authentic. For more clarity on what these email addresses may look like, take a look at HMRC’s examples of phishing and bogus emails and websites.

Additionally, HMRC will never request any personal or financial information when they send text messages. If you receive a text message asking for this information, please do not reply, or open any links which it may contain. The message should be forwarded onto 60599, following this delete the text.

Fake phone calls

Another commonly reported scam that is often aimed at the elderly and vulnerable consists of an automated phone call stating that HMRC is filing a lawsuit against you and advises you to speak to somebody to make a payment to prevent this. The advice given from HRMC here is to terminate the phone call immediately. Other calls include offering you a tax refund and ask you to provide payment information in order to receive it, the same guidance applies to this. Do not offer any information which they ask for, it is recommended that you report this to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk stating the date and time of the call, the phone number and the content of the call.

WhatsApp messages

HMRC have confirmed that they won’t use WhatsApp to communicate to customers regarding tax refunds. If you ever receive a message from a number posed as HMRC, it will be a scam. Email HMRC notifying the details and then delete the message.

Social Media

Scammers are also targeting people through social media, for example a direct message on Twitter. These messages are in relation to a tax refund, HMRC guarantees that they will never use social media as a form of communication when offering you a tax rebate or when requesting any valuable information.

Refund companies

Some companies are contacting individuals via text messages and email to advertise their services, applying to HMRC for a tax rebate on your behalf, but charging a fee to do this. These companies have no affiliation to HMRC, therefore you are warned to read the disclaimers and terms and conditions before entering into any agreement with these companies.

Export clearance emails

People have received emails asking for payments in order to receive lottery winnings, seized goods or packages, certificates or bonds and inheritance payments. The emails are often signed off by a real HMRC staff member to add an element of authenticity to it, but these are not genuine communications. Forward these details to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and delete the email.

If you are uncertain on any communication which you have received, don’t hesitate to contact a member of your Personal Tax Team for clarity on the issue. We also advise you to complete your Self Assessment tax return sooner rather than later to avoid any potential fines for overdue returns. If you are yet to complete your return, get in touch with PayStream's Tax Team today on 0161 929 6000 (option 3) or email tax@paystream.co.uk for more information.

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Miguel Garcia has a background that will be familiar to many. He started out in the banking industry, but was made redundant and moved to a job in PPI. That was a fixed contract, and when it was up he was moved over to another job. After a few years of never being able to settle in the same role for long, he decided to become a contractor.

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