As the self-assessment tax deadline looms there could be an abundance of tax scams as fraudsters look to prey on millions of unsuspecting taxpayers. Every year, like clockwork, scammers come out of the woodwork looking to take advantage of people expecting contact from HMRC.
What type of scams do you need to be aware of?
Self-employed workers and other individuals who need to file their tax affairs online by the end of January need to keep an eye out for phishing emails claiming to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
These scam messages often request personal or payment information. But if you provide this, this could give criminals access to your card accounts, enabling them to steal money.
HMRC provides examples of common phishing emails, phone calls and texts to help you familiarise yourself with the tricks common to scammers.
What should you look out for?
There are a number of tell-tale signs which could indicate that a message is a scam:
- Emails where the sender’s address is different from the trusted organisation’s website address.
- Emails sent from a completely different address or webmail address.
- Messages which use a non-specific greeting, such as “Dear Customer”.
- A sense of urgency; for example, the threat that unless you act immediately, your account may be closed, or you might be facing arrest.
- A 'too good to be true' offer such as a large tax rebate.
- Also beware of emails with attachments which could contain viruses designed to steal personal or financial information.
Read about five scams to steal your identity.
Tips to avoid getting scammed
- The key thing to remember is that HMRC will never inform you about a tax rebate or penalty over email or text.
- If you do receive an email asking for personal information, such as your username, password or bank details, report it immediately to ensure you don’t fall victim. Forward suspect emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Forward spam text messages to HMRC at 60599 – but be aware you will be charged your network rate for text messages.
- If you are unsure about an email with an attachment, do not open it or forward it. Delete it immediately.
- HMRC provide documents for checking any email, text message, phone call or letter you receive is genuine.
Read more tips to beat the scammers.
Watch out for hoax websites
As well as scam emails, you also need to be on your guard when surfing the net, as a raft of hoax websites are likely to appear this month. This could include copycat websites that promise to renew anything from passports to driving licences.
These could trick you into paying for a service which you could get more cheaply – or for free – if you used the official Government service. The best approach is to stay alert and if you have a suspicion the site is not what it says it is, leave the site.
How to report a fraud
If you think you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud by calling (0300) 123 2040 or go to Actionfraud.police.uk.
You can also report suspicious emails, text messages and phone calls to HMRC directly.
Read our guide for victims of identity fraud.
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