HMRC warning as ‘high numbers’ of tax scams surge to target Britons – ‘be careful!’

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HM Revenue and Customs as it is formally known, is a familiar name and can help Britons with their tax affairs regularly. However, it is unfortunately commonly exploited by fraudsters who use its name as a guise to lead unsuspecting individuals into a false sense of security. In fact, HMRC has seen tax-related scams roughly double over the past year.

Now, the Government body is fighting back, taking unprecedented action on scams in an effort to keep Britons safe.

The Revenue has written to leading charities warning them tax related scams are continuing to skyrocket right across the country.

These include Cancer Research UK, Citizens Advice, the National Trust and Gingerbread, amongst others. 

It has urged organisations to take further action in order to highlight these scams through their communication channels.

Anyone could fall victim to these scams, HMRC has said, but they often target the vulnerable or busy individuals who may not see them coming. 

People can be sure HMRC will not ring them out of the blue threatening arrest, a common tactic which has been deployed by scammers in recent months.

However, if someone contacts a person claiming to be from HMRC, individuals should always be wary.

The Department has confirmed it will only ever call asking for payment on a tax or tax credit debt a person already knows about.

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This will usually be conveyed through a letter or one’s Self Assessment tax return. 

HMRC has posed several questions Britons can ask themselves if they are unsure as to whether correspondence they have received is a scam.

They are as follows:

  • Is the contact unexpected?
  • Does it offer a refund, rebate of financial support?
  • Does it ask for personal details?
  • Is it threatening?
  • Does it ask you to transfer money?

Those who are not sure about the identity of a caller, in particular, are advised to put the phone down without speaking to them.

Criminals usually have the aim of stealing a person’s money, or their personal details in an effort to sell it on to others.

Within texts and emails, links can also be included which, if clicked, could download dangerous software onto a person’s computer or phone.

It could gather personal data or lock a device and ask for individuals to pay a ransom to retrieve it.

While the Revenue does have a dedicated Customer Protection Team to identify scams and close them down, data clearly shows the problem is expanding. 

In the last year, HMRC has responded to 1,048,396 referrals of suspicious contact from the public, with more than 463,457 of these offering bogus tax rebates.

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It also responded to 441,954 reports of phone scams in total, up by 117 percent on the previous year.

A total of 13,316 malicious webpages were also reported for takedown, with 462 separate COVID-19 related financial scam since March 2020. 

HMRC has advised Britons to stop to take a moment to think before parting with their information, challenge requests, and protect themselves by forwarding on suspicious correspondence to HMRC.

Those who believe they have fallen victim to a scam are urged to contact their bank immediately, and report the matter to Action Fraud.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “HMRC is urging customers to be careful if they are contacted out of the blue by someone asking for money or personal information.

“We see high numbers of fraudsters emailing, calling or texting people claiming to be from HMRC.

“If in doubt, we advise customers not to reply directly to anything suspicious, but to contact HMRC straight away.”

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