HMRC scams double in a year – the four biggest threats to watch out for.
The tax authority responded to more than one million scam reports in the past 12 months.
The tax authority’s recent scam statistics show tax-related scams have continued to rise during the pandemic, roughly doubling in 12 months. Fraudsters often try to mimic HMRC’s messages, so they look authentic – be it through scam phone calls or fake web pages – as victims are more likely to transfer money to an institution they recognise and trust.
During this year HMRC have dealt with millions of instances of HMRC scams, in various guises. Here are some of the most common:
HMRC phone scams
HMRC responded to 441,954 phone scams, which was up 117% on the previous year. In July 2021 alone, there were 12,037 phone scam reports.
Phone scams can take many forms, the most common being automated messages telling you a warrant is out for your arrest due to not paying enough tax. While this may sound scary, HMRC never issues this kind of warning, so it’s always best to just hang up if you receive one of these calls.
Number spoofing can also happen. This is when a scam caller manages to appear as though a genuine HMRC phone number is calling you. This tactic can be very convincing, but if the person on the other end starts asking for your bank details or other personal information, it’s also best just to hang up.
False tax rebates
HMRC responded to 463,457 reports of suspicious contact from the public offering bogus tax rebates in the past year.
HMRC doesn’t contact anyone by text or email about tax rebates, so any messages you receive about this will be fake.
Similarly, HMRC will never ask for you to click on a link to fill out your bank details online to receive a rebate.
If you are owed a tax rebate, you’ll be asked to log in to your online tax account, where HMRC will have sent genuine communication about it.
The topic of tax rebates has also come under the spotlight recently, when Which? issued an alert about a copycat marriage allowance claims site being advertised on Google. Not strictly scams, these unofficial claims services can take up to 40% of the tax rebate you’re owed along with extra admin fees.
Malicious web pages
More than 13,316 malicious web pages were reported by HMRC, with instructions for them to be taken down.
These web pages might clone or copy HMRC’s official pages or might pretend to be officially affiliated with the tax authority. Look out for paid-for ads that appear at the top of search engine results, as some scammers purposely target HMRC-related search terms.
Richardson, D., 2021. The biggest HMRC scams to watch out for – Which? News. [online] Which? News. Available at: <https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/09/hmrc-scams-double-in-a-year-the-four-biggest-threats-to-watch-out-for/> (Accessed 8 September 2021).