In this time of the year thousands of taxpayers have been targeted by fraudsters trying to use fake emails or text messages, that they look like come from HMRC, to access people’s online tax records.
People receiving emails or text messages are told that they are due a tax refund / rebate but direct them to a fake website that ask to enter login details, bank details, reply to text messages, download attachments.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between a genuine offer and a tax refund scam email or text message, so here are some tips to help you.
How you can spot and protect yourself
About emails and text messages
Here’s a text message one of our customer received:
You have an unclaimed tax refund. Claim now. [link removed]
HMRC will never use texts or emails to tell you about a tax rebate or penalty or ask for personal or payment information, so this is obviously bogus. Don’t give out private information or click any links. A selection of scam email addresses used to distribute the tax rebate emails can be seen below:
How to tell if an email is fraudulent
Address. Look out for a sender’s email address that is similar to, but not the same as, HMRC’s email addresses. Fraudsters often have email accounts with HMRC or revenue names in them (for example ‘@hmrc.org.uk’). These email addresses are used to mislead you.
Information. HMRC won’t ever send notification of a tax rebate via email or ask taxpayers to disclose personal or payment information via email.
Action. Fraudsters ask for immediate action. Be wary of emails containing phrases like ‘you only have 3 days to reply’ or ‘urgent action required’.
Websites. Fraudsters often include links to webpages that look like the homepage of the HMRC website. This is to trick you into disclosing personal/confidential information.
Greeting. Use of generic greeting such as ‘Dear Customer’ and not your own name is something to watch out for.
Attachments. Be cautious of attachments as these could contain viruses designed to steal your personal information.
If you receive an email claiming to be from HMRC which offers a tax rebate, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete it permanently or report here.
Other things to consider
Logo. The HMRC name and logo is protected by crown copyright. The majority of tax agents comply with HMRC’s requirements for advertising but there are firms who advertise their services or website by using the HMRC logo. If HMRC becomes aware of misleading claims or advertising, the department will take legal action.
Tax agent. Tax agent or adviser must register with HMRC and have an agent code or reference number. To appoint an agent to deal with your tax, ask them to use HMRC’s online authorisation service or complete form 64-8 and send it to HMRC.
Accountancy service providers. Auditors, accountants, bookkeepers and tax advisers have to register with HMRC under the Money Laundering Regulation and hold certificate. They are committing an offence if they carry on a business and they are not registered with MLR.
Check firms with who you are dealing or looking to deal and if you think they look untrustworthy, act immediately before you have been deceived.
Finally, if you are already our customer and claimed a tax refund, you won’t get another one until next year. If you received an email or text message or you are victim of this crime and need help, please contact us.