During the current period of ‘lock down’ many fraudsters, often claiming to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), are attempting to take advantage of the situation by targeting individuals with various scams. Given the many support packages recently announced by the Government, individuals are being targeted by bogus emails, texts and phone calls. One such scam in particular promises a lump-sum payment to the taxpayer.
HMRC have recently updated their website with new guidance to include a number of scams associated with Coronavirus (COVID-19). The page gives examples of some of the scams including when, why and how they might contact taxpayers for a variety of different reasons.
For those that wish to view the full document, it can be found here.
Many of these scams are not new but are being tailored to the current coronavirus situation and examples include the following:
- Email scams
It is common for phishing e-mails to be sent out and a number of these can be very convincing. Emails recently seen include informing individuals that they can claim a tax refund to help protect themselves from the coronavirus outbreak.
HMRC advice is not to reply to the email or open any of the links in the message, since HMRC will never send notifications of a tax refund by email.
- SMS and text scams
Text messages may claim to offer a ’goodwill payment’ to assist in the fight against the coronavirus with a link to make the claim. Another example, is a message stating that you will be fined £250 for leaving the house more than once, with an 0800 telephone number to call to appeal the fine.
HMRC advice is not to click any links, or to reply to the text or call the phone number listed. It should be remembered that HMRC will never ask for personal or financial information in a text message.
- Bogus phone calls
A widely reported example of one of the bogus phone calls is in the form of an automated message informing you that HMRC is filing a lawsuit against you, and to press ‘1’ to speak to a caseworker in order to make a payment. This scam has often been used in targeting the elderly and vulnerable people. Such calls should be ended immediately.
Other scam calls may offer a tax refund and ask for your bank or credit card details. If you cannot verify the identity of the caller you should not speak to them.
It should also be remembered that HMRC will only contact a taxpayer regarding a debt where the taxpayer has already been notified of that debt by post.
- WhatsApp messages and social media scams
Some individuals have been contacted through Whatsapp or via direct message on social media. HMRC have confirmed that these messages are scams since they will never contact individuals via Whatsapp or use social media to offer a tax refund or request personal or financial information.
If any of the above apply, you can contact HMRC directly and confirm the validity of the communication. The best way to get genuine contact information for HMRC is through the gov.uk website rather than through a link or telephone number in the communication.
HMRC request that if you have been the target of a scam that details are emailed to them at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if the scam was in the form of an email it should then be deleted.
If you have any doubts regarding any communication from HMRC or if you are at all concerned about information you may have given out, please contact us.
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