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Taxpayers beware - fraudsters are impersonating HMRC

Nicky Owen, Partner, Professional Practices
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In an unprecedented year where we have all had to deal with the impact of COVID-19, we have found that the number of people falling victim to scammers has grown exponentially.

There was a particular flurry of telephone scams back in July and August with individuals being informed that their account with HMRC was in arrears and payment needed to be paid immediately to avoid a warrant being issued for their arrest. We have also seen scammers threaten that a taxpayer is under investigation for tax fraud and that if monies are not paid immediately, then a warrant will be issued for their arrest.

You may think that these situations sound quite farcical, but if you are the end of the telephone dealing with a situation like this, it makes you question yourself and can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety. 

Our concern is that with the upcoming January tax payment date we may find that the scammers will again be out in force to take advantage of taxpayers. None of us are immune to scammers as they have several ways they can make contact including by letter, email, text, WhatsApp message or telephone call. It is important that we remain vigilant at all times.

Things to remember

  1. HMRC has to follow certain protocols by law to investigate your tax affairs. This would include an initial enquiry being opened into a tax return within certain time limits and a letter would be sent to you, as the taxpayer and to your tax agents. The enquiry usually asks for additional information so that HMRC can check entries in the tax return and that is how the process is started. The process ends once HMRC has satisfied all their enquiries into that tax return. The whole process takes time and you would be kept informed by HMRC throughout.
  2. Remember the scammers want your personal details, to commit identity fraud or to obtain funds from your bank accounts so don’t give them your personal or your bank account details.
  3. HMRC will not send emails, text messages, WhatsApp messages or telephone taxpayers regarding a tax refund, tax penalty or ask for personal or payment information.

What not to do

  1. Do not click through on any links in any messages or open any attachments. Fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated and are quite capable of spoofing a genuine HMRC email address to make it look genuine.
  2. Do not provide any personal or bank account details.

What to do

  1. If you are unsure end the call.
  2. Call your tax agent for assistance or report to HMRC’s phishing team directly at [email protected].
  3. Remain vigilant and stay safe from fraudsters.

Contact us

Nicky Owen
Nicky Owen
Head of Professional Practices