Taxpayers are being urged to remain cautious of digital approaches claiming to be from HMRC, as tax-related scams have almost doubled in the past 12 months. Writing to voluntary and community sector groups this week, HMRC’s Head of Cyber Security, Mike Fell, starkly warned: “These crimes often target the busy, unwary or vulnerable, but anyone can become a victim.”
He confirmed that the coronavirus pandemic had given criminals a “fresh hook for their activity”, with more than 460 COVID financial support scams detected by HMRC since early 2020, mostly by text message.
Furthermore, in the last year HMRC:
- Received more than a million referrals from the public about suspicious contact, nearly half offering bogus tax ”rebates” or “refunds”
- Worked with the telecoms industry and Ofcom to remove nearly 2,460 phone numbers being used to commit tax phone scams.
- received 441,954 reports of phone scams in total, 117% up on the previous year.
- Reported more than 13,315 malicious web pages for a takedown; and
- Asked internet service providers to take down 441 COVID-19 scam web pages.
At the end of July 2021, HMRC published a webpage to help taxpayers check that the contact they have received is genuinely from HMRC. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-genuine-hmrc-contact-that-uses-more-than-one-communication-method
The page confirms that the number that HMRC texts from has changed recently, alongside detailing how taxpayers may be contacted for various ongoing research projects, including on off-payroll working and on corporation tax reliefs.
It also lists how it contacts taxpayers as part of standard processes, such as issuing statutory notices requesting information and contacting VAT-registered businesses that no longer need to hold a registration number.