Scammers disguising themselves as HMRC: Avoid becoming a victim of a scam

Published Wednesday, 5th August 2020

The different types of scams fraudsters use to part you of your money and personal details are endless and disguising themselves as a trusted establishment like HMRC is not uncommon.

The aim of these scams is to steal money from your bank account, persuade you to send money, or get enough personal and financial information so that they can sell it to other criminals who perform identity theft.

To help prevent you becoming a victim of a scam, we have summarised the most common ways scammers may contact you while disguising themselves as HMRC, how you can spot a scam, what to do if you think you have been a victim of a scam and how to report it.

Emails

Email phishing scams are very common around key tax deadlines. They often look very official and can even use genuine HMRC employee names to sign it off.

How to spot a scam:

  • Look at the sender’s email address. Scammers create email addresses that are similar but not the same as HMRC’s email domain e.g. refunds@hmrc.org.uk
  • Phishing emails are normally sent in bulk to several people at the same time, so rarely do they have your name and address the email specifically to you.
  • Always look for spelling mistakes and poor grammar.
  • Links in the email can redirect you to a web-page that looks like HMRC’s homepage but is not. The page will often contain display fields and boxes asking you to input personal information.
  • Links in the email can also redirect you to an official HMRC web-page to make the email seem even more legitimate. Links can also spread malware.
  • Do not open any emails and click any links if you are not 100% sure the email is legitimate. 

For examples of HMRC related phishing emails please click here.

Text

Scam text messages often contain fake notifications. They normally state that you are owed a tax refund or that you are being contacted because you owe HMRC money. HMRC do contact by text, but they will never ask for personal or financial information or contact anyone who are owed a tax refund via text.

How to spot a scam:

  • Scammers can use number spoofing (disguising their caller ID) to look like the text message is from ‘HMRC’. Always ask yourself ‘is this really from HMRC?’
  • Any links will often redirect you to a web-page which will ask you to enter personal or financial information or transfer money. Links can also spread malware.
  • Always look for spelling mistakes and poor grammar.
  • If the text is in relation to a tax refund or to pay money, just ignore it.
  • Do not reply and open any links if you are not 100% sure the email is legitimate. 

For examples of HMRC related scam text messages please click here.

Phone 

Fraudsters who contact you by phone often demand for outstanding tax to be paid or threaten you with lawsuits. They will often contact you out of the blue when you least expect it.

How to spot a scam:

  • Always try to verify and identify the caller – you can do this by asking the caller questions only you, your company and HMRC would know e.g. Tax Reference Number.
  • You will be asked to share personal or financial information.
  • The caller may use threatening language.
  • The caller will try and get you to act quickly – which does not give you time to think and truly evaluate the situation.
  • If you feel uncomfortable then just hang up - you can always look up HMRC’s contact information and ring back using a phone number from their official website. 

For examples of HMRC related bogus phone calls please click here.

What to do If you think you have been a victim of a scam

  • Contact your bank as soon as possible and explain what has happen. You will be given advice on how to protect your account and recover any money.
  • Report the scam to HMRC. 

How to Report a scam

You can report something suspicious to HMRC’s phishing team, for example:

  • a text message (forward it to 60599 - you’ll be charged at your network rate)
  • an email (contact HMRC’s phishing team via email)
  • details of a phone call asking for personal information or threatening a lawsuit (contact HMRC’s phishing team via email) 

If you receive a suspicious phone call, you can help HMRC’s investigations by providing:

  • your phone number
  • the caller’s phone number
  • the time and date of the call
  • a brief description of the call 

HMRC phishing team
phishing@hmrc.gov.uk  

Please be aware that your email address and phone number will be shared with other organisations if it is necessary to close the scam.

Advice and guidance can vary on a case by case basis so if you would like to obtain further information, including an answer tailored to your specific circumstances, please do get in touch and we would be more than happy to help.

COPYRIGHT © 2020 CALDWELL PENN LIMITED   |   Company Reg Number: 03872209   |   ICAEW - Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales: C005061064

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