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HMRC will soon be sending out texts, e-mails and other messages ahead of the annual tax return deadline, which falls on January 31 2021. This is done to remind affected consumers of their tax obligations but unfortunately, it also creates a prime scenario for fraudsters looking to take advantage of HMRCs actions.
In a warning issued today, HMRC acknowledged fraudsters use calls, emails or texts to contact victims under the guise of official tax operations.
They highlighted how prevalent this issue is, as in the last 12 months alone they responded to more than 846,000 referrals of suspicious HMRC contact from the public, 15,500 malicious web pages and over 500,000 cases of bogus tax rebate services.
As the deadline approaches, HMRC warned consumers will likely be targeted by fake tax rebate or tax refund offerings.
The fraudsters will likely use language intended to convince would-be victims to hand over personal information, including bank details, in order to claim the “refund”.
This information will then be used by the fraudsters to gain access to the customer’s bank accounts or other financial assets.
Karl Khan, HMRC’s Interim Director General for Customer Services, advised on what should be done in the face of these troubling actions: “We know that criminals take advantage of the Self-Assessment deadline to panic customers into sharing their personal or financial details and even paying bogus ‘tax due’.
“If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, offering financial help or asking for money, it might be a scam.
“Please take a moment to think before parting with any private information or money.”
Pauline Smith, the Head of Action Fraud, provided additional advice on what actions should be taken: “Criminals are experts at impersonating organisations that we know and trust.
“We work closely with HMRC to raise awareness of current scams and encourage people to report any suspicious calls or messages they receive, even if they haven’t acted on them, to the relevant channels.
“This information is crucial in disrupting criminal activity and is already helping HMRC take down fraudulent websites being used to facilitate fraud.
“It’s important to remember if you’re contacted out the blue by someone purporting to be from HMRC asking for your personal or financial details, or offering you a tax rebate, grant or refund, this could be a scam.
“Do not respond, hang up the phone, and take care not to click on any links in unexpected emails or text messages.
“You should contact HMRC directly using a phone number you’ve used before to check if the communication you have received is genuine.
“If you’ve been the victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and please report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.”
Fortunately, HMRC went on to provide a list of elements which could indicate fraudulent activity.
HMRC explained it could be a tax scam if it:
- Is unexpected
- Offers a refund, tax rebate or grant
- Asks for personal information like bank details
- is threatening
- tells a person to transfer money
It has been highlighted that self-assessment customers can complete their tax return online and there is help and support available on gov.uk, meaning there should be little reason to seek guidance from external sources.
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