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Experts warn that subpar service at HMRC is creating opportunities for scam victims. Additionally, the prolonged response times via telephone hinder individuals from promptly clarifying situations.

Concerned about HMRC scam emails and calls? This guide will aid in identifying and reporting fraudulent messages, safeguarding your information and shielding you from scammers.

Key takeaways

  • HMRC will never request personal, business, or financial information directly through emails or texts, and unexpected login codes can indicate compromised login details.
  • Common HMRC scam tactics include phishing emails, fake texts and letters, calls threatening legal action, and requests for unusual payment methods such as vouchers.
  • Report suspicious HMRC communications to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk or report@phishing.gov.uk, and safeguard your personal information by enabling multi-factor authentication and using unique, strong passwords.

Recognising HMRC scams

Illustration of a person receiving a suspicious email

Genuine HMRC communications are diverse, often involving multiple contact methods such as:

  • letters
  • emails
  • calls
  • text messages

For instance, if you run an overseas business selling goods or digital services to UK consumers, HMRC may contact you about your VAT obligations through both email and letter. However, despite these varied channels, HMRC will never request personal, business, or financial information directly through emails or texts related to tax code changes.

When it comes to customs processes, any letters or emails from HMRC will also not ask for personal, business, or financial information directly. Additionally, while HMRC uses multi-factor authentication via text messages or automated voice calls, these will never request such sensitive information. A crucial red flag to watch for is the receipt of unexpected login codes, which may indicate that your login details have been compromised.

Understanding these characteristics of genuine HMRC communications helps you differentiate between legitimate messages and potentially harmful scams. Ensure you verify the authenticity of any unexpected communication from HMRC, particularly when it requests sensitive information.

Common HMRC scam tactics

Illustration of a person receiving a suspicious phone call

Impersonating HMRC, scammers use various strategies to trick individuals into divulging personal information or money. One common method involves phishing emails or texts that claim to be from HMRC, asking for personal or financial information or prompting you to click on links to update tax return details. These links often redirect to cloned websites designed to steal login details.

Some common tactics used by scammers include:

  • Sending fake letters, texts, or social media messages offering to help you claim a tax rebate in exchange for a fee, such as £500 in Amazon vouchers.
  • Calling and pretending to be from HMRC, stating that you owe tax and must make an immediate payment, often threatening legal action or arrest if you don’t comply.
  • Using an automated message that claims HMRC is filing a lawsuit against you and prompts you to press 1 to be connected to a caseworker.

It’s important to be aware of these tactics and to never provide personal or financial information to anyone you don’t trust.

Cold callers may go as far as claiming you are being charged with tax fraud and asking for a copy of your passport and a payment over £1,000 to avoid court action. These scam calls often demand payments in unusual forms, such as Amazon vouchers. Staying vigilant and recognising these tactics can prevent you from falling victim.

Reporting HMRC scams

Illustration of reporting a scam email to HMRC

Upon encountering any suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC, reporting it to the authorities is imperative. Forward such emails to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk. For suspicious phone calls, report them online through the HMRC website.

If you suspect your HMRC account has been accessed without authorisation, report it to the HMRC online services help desk. Reporting these scams helps authorities track and shut down fraudulent activities, thus protecting yourself and others.

Protecting your personal information

Preventing cyber crime hinges on safeguarding your personal information. Here are some tips to follow:

  • Never share your HMRC login details with anyone, including tax agents
  • Be cautious about sharing your National Insurance number or other personal information online
  • If you’re unsure of the authenticity of a website or communication, do not give out private information such as bank details or passwords

Using unique, long passwords for online services can significantly enhance the security of your accounts. Enabling multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring an additional code after entering your password. Always ensure you are using an encrypted connection when accessing the HMRC website. Regularly check the last login date and time on your Government Gateway account to monitor for unauthorised access.

Criminals often use social media to trick individuals into sharing personal or login details. Being cautious and proactive enhances the protection of your personal information from unauthorised access.

What to do if you’ve lost money

Taking immediate action is key if you’ve lost money to a scam. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. If you feel threatened or in immediate danger, call the police on 999
  2. For non-emergencies, contact the police on 101
  3. Notify your bank immediately if you notice unusual activity in your account; they may be able to recover the lost money or cancel your current card to prevent further fraudulent transactions

Report the fraud to Action Fraud by calling them or through their online reporting system. Additionally, seek emotional support from organisations like:

  • Victim Support, which provides confidential support to scam victims in England and Wales
  • Think Jessica, which offers emotional and practical help to those feeling anxious or guilty about falling victim to a scam
  • The Samaritans helpline (116 123), which is available for those feeling low or needing someone to talk to.

Your local council’s adult social services can also provide safeguarding support if needed. Taking these steps can help mitigate the impact of the scam and provide you with the necessary support.

Avoiding fake Government websites

Always search for official government department services and phone numbers on GOV.UK to ensure their authenticity. Fake websites often mimic the appearance of legitimate government sites to deceive users into providing personal information or making payments.

Be vigilant about the URLs you visit and verify their authenticity before entering any sensitive information. Using official channels helps you evade cyber criminals and guarantees secure interactions with government departments, avoiding any suspicious website.

Example scenarios of HMRC scams

Knowing example scenarios of HMRC scams aids in recognising and avoiding them. One common scenario involves scammers using a mobile number to call, claiming there is a problem with your HMRC account and instructing you to press 1 to resolve it. Pressing 1 usually directs you to the scammer, who may request payment or personal information.

Another scenario includes an automated message stating your National Insurance number has been compromised, prompting you to press 1 to speak to an advisor. Cold callers might also claim you owe up to £500 in unpaid tax and threaten arrest within hours unless you make an immediate payment, sometimes in vouchers or prepaid cards.

Additionally, individuals posing as HMRC agents or tax advisors may offer to complete tax returns for an upfront fee but then disappear or file incorrectly. Awareness of these scenarios enables you to spot red flags and guard yourself against scams.

Summary

In summary, being vigilant and informed is your best defence against HMRC scams. Recognising genuine HMRC communications, understanding common scam tactics, and knowing how to report suspicious activities are crucial steps in safeguarding yourself. Protecting your personal information and being cautious online can further reduce your risk.

Remember, if you’ve lost money to a scam, seek immediate help and support. By staying aware and proactive, you can help prevent these scams from succeeding and protect your financial and personal well-being.

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