Everybody’s favourite government department HMRC (the taxman), has detected more than 450 Covid financial support scams, responded to more than one million reports of suspicious contact and reported more than 13,000 malicious web pages in the past year.
The tax authority’s recent scam statistics show tax-related scams have risen significantly during the pandemic, doubling approximately in 12 months.
A message from HMRC, whether it’s a text, email, phone call or website will always make people sit up and take note. Fraudsters know this and typically imitate messages so they look authentic hoping to get victims to transfer money to an institution they know.
Biggest HMRC tax scams
In the year from August 2020 to July 2021, HMRC identified millions of instances of HMRC scams, in various guises. Here are some of the most common:
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 are 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 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.
Bogus tax rebates
Who doesn’t love a tax rebate? HMRC responded to 463,457 reports of suspicious contacts offering bogus tax rebates over the past year.
Point to note, 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 in order 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.
Fake web pages
More than 13,316 malicious web pages were reported by HMRC. These web pages generally copy HMRC’s official pages, or 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 use HMRC-related searches to launch their scams.
Covid-19 financial support scams
With the government’s furlough scheme and self-employed income support schemes helping millions of employed and self-employed workers over the past 18 months, scammers soon figured out how to exploit this service.
They typically contacted people via email telling them they qualify for ‘goodwill payments’, then asking for their bank details. Of course, the only people to receive any money were the scammers. Given that furlough schemes have come to an end, this one is unlikely to resurface.
If you’ve been scammed check the following
Most commonly, fraudsters try to convince you to transfer money to their accounts or ask for your bank details so they can make the transfers themselves.
If this has happened to you, contact your bank immediately to let them know what happened, along with the details of where the money was sent to. Known commonly as a bank transfer scam, the banks call it an Authorised Push Payment (APP).
If your bank is signed up to the voluntary Authorised Push Payment Scam Code, it has to take a number of steps to protect customers and reimburse those who aren’t to blame for the loss.
It’s important to report the scam in order to protect other people from becoming victims.