Fraudsters are targeting elderly, vulnerable and young people who may have less experience of the tax system. During April and May, fraudsters target taxpayers with refund scams, by pretending to be from HMRC, either by email or text. This coincides with genuine tax rebates at this time of year, made by HMRC and makes the con seem more legitimate as people may be expecting to hear from the tax service.

They ask recipients to provide bank details through a fake government website which harvests private information and is used to steal money from peoples bank accounts. To lure them in they say that the person is due a tax rebate which could be worth hundreds of pounds. However, HMRC are warning, they will never ask for an individuals bank details by text or email. This time last year, HMRC say they received around 250,000 reports of tax scams and had over 6,000 fraudulent phishing websites deactivated.

Head of Customer Services at HMRC, Angela MacDonald, said to Action Fraud: “We are determined to protect honest people from these fraudsters who will stop at nothing to make their phishing scams appear legitimate. HMRC is currently shutting down hundreds of phishing sites a month. If you receive one of these emails or texts, don’t respond and report it to HMRC so that more online criminals are stopped in their tracks.”

Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: “These criminals will contact victims in many ways including spoofed calls, voicemails and text messages. People should spot the signs of fraud and be wary of emails with attachments which might contain viruses designed to obtain personal or financial information.”

The tax authority is urging anyone who knows someone that could be vulnerable to scams to be warned and prepared. HMRC’s top tips:

Recognise the signs – genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details. HMRC will never advise you of a refund in an e-mail or SMS message.

  • Stay safe – don’t give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting.
  • Take action – forward suspicious emails and details of suspicious calls claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.ukand texts to 60599, if you have suffered financial loss contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool.
  • Check GOV.UKfor information on how to avoid and report scams and recognise genuine HMRC contact.
  • If you think you have received an HMRC related phishing/bogus email or text message, you can check it against the examples shown in this guide.

HMRC’s action against scams

  • HMRC works relentlessly to close down scams and make people aware of them. Last year HMRC shut down 5,000 phishing scams before they could dupe taxpayers.
  • HMRC has cracked down on fraudsters using text and email to steal from taxpayers in the past two years, stopping half a billion emails in their tracks and introducing controls to reduce fake HMRC branded texts by 90%.
  • In the 12 months to February 2019 we received 73,382 reports of suspicious HMRC phone calls, and asked phone carriers to remove more than 400 unique numbers associated with scams. HMRC works with a range of enforcement partners both in the UK and abroad to gather intelligence of scams and to help the police shut them down.
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