HMRC issues scam warning to tax credits claimants
Tax credit claimants need to be on their guard against fraudsters, as HMRC warns of increasing use of text messages by scammers.
Sara White, Editor, Accountancy Daily
According to the National Cyber Security Centre, HMRC was the third most spoofed government body in 2022, behind the NHS and TV Licensing.
HMRC has issued an alert providing details of a number of new scams that aim to trick people into handing over money or personal information, including claims that a taxpayer's National Insurance number has been used in a fraud.
In the year to April 2023 HMRC responded to 170,234 referrals of suspicious contact from the public. Of these, 68,437 were related to bogus tax rebates.
HMRC worked with the telecoms industry and Ofcom to remove 212 phone numbers being used to commit HMRC-related phone scams in the last year and responded to 58,186 reports of phone scams in total.
The number of scams has gone up dramatically in the last three years from only 425 phone scams in April 2020.
The scale of the problem was highlighted by the tens of thousands of fake web pages containing malicious information about HMRC and ways to claim tax credits. In a single year, 26,922 malicious web pages were reported to HMRC for takedown.
Criminals use deadlines – like the tax credits renewal deadline on 31 July – to target their victims and the department is warning around 1.5 million tax credits claimants to be alert to scams that mimic government communications to make them appear genuine.
Scam messages can be convincing, and individuals may be pressured into make rushed decisions. HMRC will never ring anyone out of the blue making threats or asking them to transfer money.
Typical scam examples include:
emails or texts claiming an individual’s details are not up to date and that they risk losing out on payments that are due to them;
emails or texts claiming that a direct debit payment has not ‘gone through’;
phone calls threatening arrest if people do not immediately pay fake tax owed;
claims that the victim’s National Insurance number has been used in fraud; and
emails or texts offering spurious tax rebates or bogus grants or support.
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: ‘Tax scams come in many forms and we’re urging customers to be alert to the tactics used by fraudsters and never to let yourselves be rushed.
‘If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC and asks you to give personal information or urgently transfer money, be on your guard. Search ‘HMRC scams’ advice on gov.uk to find out how to report scams and help us fight these crimes.’
HMRC is also urging tax credits customers to be alert to misleading websites or adverts asking them to pay for government services which are free, often by charging for a connection to HMRC helplines.
HMRC is currently sending out tax credits renewal packs to customers and is reminding anyone who has not received theirs to wait until after 15 June before contacting HMRC.
Taxpayers can renew their tax credits for free via gov.uk or the HMRC app.
HMRC has a video on YouTube explaining how tax credits claimants can use the HMRC app to view, manage and update their details.
By the end of 2024, tax credits will be replaced by Universal Credit. Customers who receive tax credits will receive a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) telling them when to claim Universal Credit. It is important that people claim by the deadline shown in the letter to continue receiving financial support as their tax credits will end even if they decide not to claim Universal Credit.
HMRC is also warning people not to share their HMRC login details with anyone else. Someone using these could steal from the account owner or make a fraudulent claim in their name and leave the individuals having to pay back the full value of any fraudulent repayment claim made on their behalf.
criminals are cunning - protect your information.
take a moment to think before parting with your money or information.
use strong and different passwords on all your accounts so criminals are less able to target you.
do not trust caller ID on phones. Numbers can be spoofed.
if you’re unsure about a text claiming to be from HMRC forward it to 60599, or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Report a tax scam phone call on gov.uk.
contact your bank immediately if you’ve had money stolen, and report it to Action Fraud. In Scotland, contact the police on 101.