HMRC warns taxpayers to beware of phishing fraudsters

Cybercrime is on the rise and taxpayers have been warned to beware of fraudsters attempting to steal money and information.

The criminals are faking the role of the official bodies like HM Revenue & Customs, even copying logos and letterheads to make correspondence look official. The assumed official identities can trick their victims into handing over money or personal or financial information.

They are very clever and can change their tactics before being identified and they will communicate via email, known as phishing, SMS, phone calls or bogus websites.

HMRC warns that when someone clicks the link from the fraudster, they may be signing away their bank details, or downloading intrusive malware that spreads through their IT system.

Scams come in many forms.

  • Some threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion
  • Others offer a tax rebate
  • Some may offer financial inducements to reply

HMRC will never ask for personal or financial information when we send text messages.

Do not reply if you get a text message claiming to be from HMRC offering you a tax refund in exchange for personal or financial details. Do not open any links in the message.

Contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so if you are in any doubt whether the email, phone call or text is genuine, you can check the ‘HMRC scams’ advice on GOV.UK and find out how to report them to us.

So to avoid falling prey to these events, ignore – i.e. delete without opening – any email that purports to be a tax-related HMRC correspondence. Don’t click on web links, attachments or downloads. The same goes for social media messages and anything that comes through your phone.

Report any suspicious activity to HMRC

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said: “Never let yourself be rushed. If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard. HMRC will also never ring up threatening arrest. Only criminals do that.”

Potential victims can report suspicious phone calls using a form on GOV.UK. Customers can also forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599.

There is a dedicated team working on cyber and phone crimes. They use innovative technologies to prevent misleading and malicious communications from ever reaching the customer. HMRC says that since 2017 these technical controls have prevented 500 million emails from reaching HMRC’s customers.

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