It’s around about this time of year when fraudsters start contacting people claiming to be from HMRC, in an attempt to convince them that they have outstanding taxes and debts due for payment.
And recently, a voicemail scam has hit the headlines.
This particular scam involves leaving unsuspecting victims an automated voicemail message, claiming that the recipient owes HMRC unpaid taxes. When the victim calls the number provided in the message, they are then told there’s a warrant out in their name, and if they don’t pay up, the police will arrest them.
Typically, these callers try to encourage victims to give up bank account information or trick them into paying these phoney taxes and debts with Apple iTunes gift cards. Why iTunes cards? It’s simply because these cards can be redeemed and sold on without the physical card; the scammers just need the victim to read out the serial code on the back of the card.
Via this method, people are being duped out of between hundreds and thousands of pounds each and every day. And while elderly and vulnerable people are the clear target for these scams, they’re not the only ones who fall into these traps.
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Other Types of Scams
The voicemail scam isn’t the only one currently in use by fraudsters. A variety of methods are being utilised in an attempt to convince victims that they owe HMRC money, or will be subject to an HMRC lawsuit if they don’t settle their non-existent debt.
Here are a few more scams of which you need to be aware:
1. The Text Message Scam
It’s true that HMRC will occasionally send text messages, however, personal or financial information will never be requested. These text messages are always informational, encouraging you to take action elsewhere.
If you receive a text message claiming to be from HMRC, and that message mentions a tax refund in exchange for your bank details, you can safely ignore it. And if a message arrives in your inbox with a link, do not click on it!
2. The Email Phishing Scam
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of ‘phishing’, it refers to a type of email designed to look as if it has been legitimately sent from a real organisation. Contained within are links or attachments that will take you to a web page that will look like your bank’s. Alternatively, these links or attachments will install a virus onto your computer to extract personal and financial information.
Nearly one in four people still open phishing emails, exposing themselves to all sorts of fraudulent activity.
A recent email scam involved the promise of a tax refund from HMRC, with recipients advised to download a PDF attachment as part of the process. The attachment contained a link to a phishing site, which in turn requested personal or financial information.
HMRC will never contact you in such a manner, and any emails matching this description should be deleted immediately.
Here are a few examples to look out for: HMRC Phishing Email Examples
And keep an eye out for the following phoney email addresses:
3. The Social Media Scam
It seems no platform is safe from fraudsters, with social media accounts now being used by criminals to scam people into giving up sensitive personal and financial information.
There have been numerous examples of people receiving direct messages on Twitter and Facebook purporting to be from HMRC, offering tax rebates or requesting personal information. However, HMRC will never use a social media channel to contact you, and if you ever receive such messages, you can safely ignore them.
How to Protect Yourself
As a government organisation, HMRC is very particular about the ways in which they contact you. They will never, ever use text messages, emails, or social media platforms to request information or inform you of rebates or penalties.
Where it gets a little trickier is when you receive phone calls or voicemails. In such instances, you need to be vigilant, and to educate yourself on the clear signs of fraud.
It’s therefore a good idea to familiarise yourself and your staff with the excellent resource, Take Five to Stop Fraud.
You Can Never Be Too Careful
If you’re ever contacted by HMRC, and you feel uneasy about the questions you’re being asked, you are well within your rights to hang up the phone.
Call 0300 200 3300 to make sure you are legitimately speaking to someone from HMRC.
And if you’d like to discuss tax returns, rebates, penalties, and generally dealing with HMRC, our friendly team of tax partners are only ever a click or a phone call away.