Whilst you would hope that a global pandemic would bring out the humanity in people, unfortunately, scammers are actually using the pandemic and people’s misery to their advantage and still targeting people with their scumbag schemes. So, in this blog, we take a look at some of the HMRC related scams that are out there, and how you can protect yourself.
HMRC Covid-19 Related Scams
Obviously, with the current pandemic, there are many people struggling to make ends meet, with being forced to self isolate, or perhaps not receiving any government support in spite of work drying up. Therefore, it could potentially be very easy for desperate people to fall foul of one of the newer scams, which is usually in the form of a text message or email saying something along the lines of ‘you are eligible for a £XXXX tax refund due to the COVID-19 outbreak’ or ‘The UK Government has issued a payment of £XXXX to all residents as part of its promise to battle COVID-19’. These types of messages then have a link to a website requesting your personal details.
HMRC have confirmed that these are scams and instructed people not to click on the link or reply to the message. HMRC state that they will never contact you regarding a rebate via text message or email, so anything like this is a scam and should be deleted.
Telephone call or voicemail scamming
Unfortunately, one fairly common scam (presumably because it is intimidating to the recipient) is the telephone call pertaining to be from HMRC stating that there is a lawsuit against you and that a payment must be made asap or legal action will be taken. Once again, this is a scam!
It can be incredibly intimidating to receive such a call, especially if you’ve never experienced it before. However, unless you are 100% sure that who you are speaking to is indeed HMRC, it is best not to liase with these people, especially if you are not expecting such a call. You can always put the phone down, and then ring HMRC on a verified telephone number, so that you know you are speaking to a genuine HMRC advisor and check with them the legitimacy of the original phone call. It is very unlikely that in the event of a refund, a lawsuit or the like, that HMRC would not have previously written to you about this.
Social media scamming
Nowadays, it’s not just via telephone and email that the scammers can try and con you. There are now even reports of direct messages being sent on Twitter offering tax refunds in return for personal information. HMRC are categorical in their response to this, saying that they just do not use social media accounts to offer a tax rebate or request personal information. So, if you receive this type of message, don’t click on any links, delete and ignore.
HMRC request that if you ever receive any of the above types of correspondence, that you send the details to email@example.com to help with their investigations into these scams.
Unfortunately, scammers are getting more and more sophisticated these days. They can make messages appear as though they are coming from legitimate numbers, as well as phone calls. Realistically, we can never be prepared for every scam they can come up with. But, the best way to prepare yourself is just to make sure you keep your head about you in such situations. Follow the guidance above, and if you get a call or message from HMRC that doesn’t make sense, or is out of the blue and you’re just not sure, take a step back, have a google, and contact either your accountant or HMRC on a verified number to check.
It’s incredibly sad that during such a turbulent, stressful and upsetting time, some people, rather than trying to help their community as most of us are, rather see it as an opportunity to line their own pockets and compound other people’s misery. For anything you receive, whether it be from HMRC or anywhere, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If money or personal details are being requested out of the blue, or if you are suddenly receiving emails/calls/messages about something that is apparently urgent (and requiring personal or financial details) that you’ve no knowledge of, you should be cautious. Never provide personal or financial details to someone who’s identity you are not 100% certain of. After all, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
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