HMRC is warning self assessment taxpayers to be on their guard following the tax return deadline after more than 570,000 scams were reported to HMRC in the last year
At this time of year, self assessment taxpayers are at increased risk of falling victim to scams. They can be taken in by scam texts, emails or calls either offering a ‘refund’ or demanding unpaid tax, thinking that they are genuine HMRC communications referring to their self assessment return.
Criminals try and steal money or personal information, using phone calls, texts and emails to try and dupe citizens, and often mimic government messages to make them appear authentic.
In the 12 months to January 2022, nearly 220,000 scams reported to HMRC offered bogus tax rebates. The tax authority responded to 572,423 referrals of suspicious contact from the public.
There were also hundreds of telephone numbers identified as faking HMRC to try to scam taxpayers. HMRC has been working with the telecoms industry and Ofcom to remove more than 920 phone numbers being used to commit HMRC-related phone scams.
The number of phone scams has escalated in the last year with 267,671 reports of phone scams in the last year. In April 2020 HMRC received reports of only 425 phone scams while by January 2022 this had soared to 3,995.
The internet is another minefield with more than 6,160 malicious web pages taken down over the 12-month period.
The various government covid schemes also provided fertile territory for fraudsters. Since March 2020, HMRC detected 463 Covid-related financial scams, mostly disseminated by text message and it worked with internet service providers to take down 443 Covid-related scam web pages.
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: ‘If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard.
‘Never let yourself be rushed, and if you’re in any doubt then check our ‘HMRC scams’ advice on gov.uk.’
Following the extension of the self assessment deadline to 28 February 2022, taxpayers have until 1 April to pay their outstanding tax bill or set up a time to pay arrangement to avoid receiving a late payment penalty. Interest has been applied to all outstanding balances since 1 February.
Taxpayers should report suspicious phone calls using the form on gov.uk and forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to firstname.lastname@example.org and texts to 60599.
HMRC has a dedicated team working on cyber and phone crimes. They use innovative technologies to prevent misleading and malicious communications from ever reaching the taxpayer. Since 2017, these technical controls have intercepted 500 million emails. More recently, new controls have prevented 90% of the most convincing SMS messages from reaching the public and controls have been applied to prevent spoofing of most HMRC helpline numbers.
HMRC is also reminding people to double check websites and online forms before using them to complete their 2020/21 tax return. People can be taken in by misleading websites designed to make them pay for help in submitting tax returns or charging to connect them to HMRC phone lines.
HMRC’s advice to the public:
- Take a moment to think before parting with your money or information.
- If a phone call, text or email is unexpected, don’t give out private information or reply, and don’t download attachments or click on links before checking on gov.uk that the contact is genuine.
- Do not trust caller ID on phones. Numbers can be spoofed.
- It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests – only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
- Search ‘scams’ on gov.uk for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact and how to avoid and report scams.
- Forward suspicious texts claiming to be from HMRC to 60599 and emails to email@example.com. Report tax scam phone calls on gov.uk.