Given the amount of Covid-19 financial assistance available, it comes as no surprise that there is an increase in HMRC-related scams this year.
What is worrying is that scammers have become more sophisticated; it is no longer a matter of simply ignoring emails offering tax refunds. Recent scams have targeted the self-employed receiving income support grants, and, with two further payments to come, the scams are expected to continue.
So what are the scammers after? The holy grail for a scammer is to obtain sufficient personal information to access and empty a bank account. For instance, a Covid-19 goodwill payment may be conditional on providing bank details so the funds can purportedly be paid direct into the account. As banks strengthen security, the focus of scams will shift to identity theft, especially where passport details are involved. Other scams may call for the payment of upfront fees to help claim a tax refund.
Moving away from emails As scam email detection improves, many scammers have switched to text messaging. Telephone numbers are spoofed to show HMRC as the sender, with links to very convincing HMRC-lookalike websites.
Automated voicemails, voice calls and messages sent via social media are other means of making initial contact.
Prevention A bit of common sense will protect you from most scams, although the best ones can be quite convincing. Remember that HMRC will:
Always include your 10-digit tax reference on any correspondence;
Never use email, texts or social media to contact you regarding a tax refund; and
Never ask for bank account details or personal information.
If still in doubt, contact us or check the legitimacy of a proffered tax refund by logging on to your personal tax account.