Taxpayers are being urged to take care when receiving calls purporting to come from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). These are pretty much guaranteed to be scams – as HMRC will never call taxpayers directly.
How do these scams work?
The way the scam works is that someone calls and informs the listener that they owe tax that must be paid immediately. They sound very plausible and go on to threaten the listener with bailiffs or even an arrest warrant.
In reality, the fraudster at the other end of the line is attempting to frighten the victim into sending money directly to them.
Naturally, some listeners are so scared by this that they give out personal details, such as their National Insurance number or date of birth without thinking it through. This is never a good idea, as personal information can be used and manipulated as part of other scams at a later date.
Some of these criminals purporting to be from HMRC are so brazen, they will even carry out home visits. In one case, when an anonymous listener realised the call was a scam and hung up, fake bailiffs turned up on their doorstep soon after. In that instance, the taxpayer called the police, who confirmed that it was a scam. Nevertheless, the whole ordeal must have been very upsetting at the time.
Watch out for other scams, too!
The threatening call might not always involve a fraudster speaking to a victim directly – it may be in the form of a text message or voicemail.
In either case, the message is for the taxpayer to call ‘the taxman’ back. When they do call back, they are told there is a case being built against them for an outstanding debt and that they must pay immediately. Often they are informed that there is a warrant out in their name and that if they don’t pay, the police will arrest them.
If in doubt, check!
The bottom line is that HMRC will never use texts or voicemail messages to tell taxpayers about a penalty or ever ask for payment in this way. Anyone receiving such a call should immediately inform their accountant and/or the police, who can then follow through and attempt to catch the criminals.
HMRC has published important information regarding how to spot the different between true HMRC contact and scams. Its latest guidance on the issue, which can be accessed here, also includes screenshots of typical email scams – which also appear to be growing increasingly common.
For more information about MD Consulting’s personal tax planning services and how we can help you, please contact us.