Self assessment taxpayers should guard against being targeted by fraudsters as more than 10,000 websites attempt to defraud individuals, warns HMRC
In the 12 months to August 2022, HMRC responded to more than 180,000 referrals of suspicious contact from the public, of which almost 81,000 were scams offering fake tax rebates.
They have also responded to 55,386 reports of phone scams in total, 87% down on the previous year. In April 2020 HMRC received reports of only 425 phone scams. In August 2022 this was 5,913, while it received reports of 10,565 malicious web pages for takedown.
Criminals claiming to be from HMRC have targeted individuals by email, text and phone with their communications ranging from offering bogus tax rebates to threatening arrest for tax evasion. Contacts like these should sound alarm bells – HMRC would never call threatening arrest.
Anyone contacted by someone claiming to be from HMRC in a way that arouses suspicion is advised to check the scams advice on gov.uk.
Taxpayers can report any suspicious activity to HMRC by forwarding suspicious texts claiming to be from HMRC to 60599 and emails to email@example.com. Any tax scam phone calls can be reported to HMRC using the online form on gov.uk.
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: ‘Never let yourself be rushed. If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard.
‘HMRC will never ring up threatening arrest. Only criminals do that.
‘Tax scams come in many forms. Some threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion, others offer a rebate. Contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so take your time and check ‘HMRC scams advice’ on gov.uk.’
Fraudsters target taxpayers when they know they are more likely to be in contact with HMRC, which is why anyone completing self assessment tax returns should be extra vigilant to this activity. There is a risk they could 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.
HMRC warned that some taxpayers who have not done a self assessment return before might be tricked into clicking on links in these emails or texts and revealing personal or financial information to criminals.
The deadline for filing paper tax returns for the 2021-22 tax year is 31 October 2022, and 31 January 2023 for those filing their tax return online. Taxpayers who file their return online via gov.uk should not share their HMRC login details. Someone using the details could steal from the taxpayer or make a fraudulent claim in their name.
HMRC is actively tackling the scams and fraudsters who attempt to mimic genuine HMRC activity and messages. The department’s dedicated customer protection team works continuously to identify and close down scams.
HMRC also tackles misleading websites designed to make people pay for services that should be free or low cost, charging to connect people to free HMRC phone helplines. To protect the public, HMRC formally disputes and takes ownership of HMRC-branded internet domain or website names. Since 2017, the department has recovered more than 183 websites hosting low-value services such as call-connection sites, saving the public millions of pounds.
Over the last year the tax authority has also worked with the telecoms industry and Ofcom to remove 48 phone numbers being used to commit HMRC-related phone scams.