Scammers are becoming increasingly clever and hard to detect. Fraud costs the UK billions of pounds every year, and it is often smaller businesses or individuals who are targeted.
Whenever we become aware of a new scam doing the rounds, we pass this information on to you in the hopes that you can avoid being tricked.
Sometimes, criminals pretend to be HMRC and hope that people won’t notice the minor details that give them away as scammers. The official looking communications can sometimes scare people into paying money or giving away information, but it’s always worth a closer look to be sure if it is actually HMRC contacting you.
Here are some of the things to look out for in HMRC scams:
If you receive an email, call or text message from someone claiming to be from HMRC, be cautious.
Whilst HMRC do sometimes email or text message you, their primary form of communication is through the post.
If you do receive an email, call or SMS out of the blue, be extra cautious and always check in with us to get our opinion on whether it is genuine.
Threats of Legal Action
Scammers often use fear tactics, such as threats of legal action or arrest, to pressure individuals into paying them. HMRC will never threaten legal action or arrest as a first course of action.
That isn’t to say anything that comes through from HMRC or one of their agents isn’t legitimate; but if this is the first you’ve heard about it and haven’t received any warnings beforehand, then it’s definitely worth being extra safe and giving it a closer look.
Requests for Payment
HMRC will never call you up to ask for payment over the phone or by email. If you receive a call or email requesting payment, do not provide any personal information or payment details. Instead, call HMRC back on the relevant phone number from their website.
Scammers often include links in their emails or text messages that lead to fake HMRC websites. These websites are designed to look like the official HMRC website and can be used to steal personal information. Always check the URL to ensure it is the official HMRC website.
Some giveaways will be the lack of secure website (look for the padlock in the address bar) and slight spelling differences in the website address. In some cases, the address of the website may not even look like an official one.
Scammers can track that you have clicked the link in the email (verifying your email address is active), and the destination website of the link may have nasty malware designed to infect your computer.
If you are in any way in doubt, then we recommend to not click the links and definitely not to open any attachments in emails.
Offers of Tax Refunds
Scammers may contact you claiming that you are due a tax refund and ask for your bank details to process the payment. HMRC will never offer a tax refund by email or text message.
As with the previous advice, call HMRC direct on one of the numbers from their contact page, or get in touch with us.
Spelling & Grammar
Many of these scammers are off-shore, and English is not their first language. Look for spelling and grammar mistakes in the email, letter or text message you receive.
Also, look at the type of language being used. HMRC write in a very particular style, and you will likely notice a difference in the way the correspondence has been written.
Sometimes this can be perfect though, so don’t use this as your only guide.
Whilst scammers may have your name, business name and address, it is unlikely that they have much more than this.
HMRC will often include things such as your unique tax reference and other key identifiers that the scammers would not have access to.
If the correspondence is lacking this detail, treat it with extra caution.
Email ‘From’ Field
When scammers send an email, they can dictate who appears in the ‘From’ field to make it look like it’s from HMRC. However, with most email clients, you can click on this to reveal the actual address. If it is a scammer, these will often appear as unusual addresses and not from a .gov.uk domain.
Always check what the sender’s actual email address is.
What to Do
If you suspect that you have received an HMRC scam, you can report it to HMRC by forwarding the email or text message to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also feel free to let us know so that we can warn our clients.
You should also contact your bank or credit card provider immediately if you have provided any payment details to the scammer.
If you have any questions or are uncertain about correspondence from HMRC, you can reach us on email@example.com