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Phishing: Don’t take the bait when fraudsters cast their net, warns taxman

April Foster

Fraudsters are targeting individuals on social media in an attempt to obtain their personal details and claim bogus Self-Assessment tax refunds.

HM Revenue & Customs has issued a warning that scammers are attempting to persuade customers to share sensitive information, such as their Government Gateway log-ins and other personal details, then using this information to register for Income Tax Self-Assessment and submit false tax refund claims. The individuals are promised a proportion of the tax repayment ‘risk free’ as an incentive to let the fraudsters ‘borrow’ their identities.

Customers from teenagers to pensioners are being targeted and HMRC has warned all individuals to stay vigilant and not to share their personal information. Doing so, even inadvertently, can put you at risk of becoming involved in tax fraud and having to repay the full value of the bogus claim. You should only deal with HMRC directly or through your professional advisers on matters relating to your Self-Assessment tax.

April Foster, Partner at chartered accountants Moore in Northampton, said: “Unfortunately, fraudsters pretending to be HMRC is not uncommon, with other phishing scams including emails or phone calls stating that the caller is from HMRC and that there is a court case pending against the recipient. The message asks the recipient to pay the outstanding balance immediately in order to avoid further action.

“Another example is a call or email claiming to offer you a tax refund and requesting your bank or credit card information to arrange this.”

There are a number of things to look out for to help you recognise a phishing email or bogus SMS text message from HMRC, she added.

“HMRC will never notify you of a tax rebate or offer you a repayment by email, SMS or WhatsApp and will never leave a voicemail threatening legal action or call you threatening arrest. Spelling mistakes and poor grammar are another good indicator of phoney communications.”

If you are unsure whether an email from HMRC is genuine, forward it to – giving details of what you are reporting in the subject line – and then delete it. You can forward suspicious text messages to 60599. Do not open attachments or click any links in an email or text message as they may contain malicious software or direct you to a misleading website.