Scam calls from ‘HMRC’ fraudsters

Some of MHA Tait Walker’s clients and other individuals in the North East have been contacted by ‘HMRC’ fraudsters demanding payments in relation to fraudulent activity and citing legal action. These fraudsters are using more intricate and sophisticated methods to scam innocent people out of money. These scams are nothing new, however we are seeing an increase in the frequency of reported scams and the authenticity in their methods.

Contact is ranging from emails stating that the individual is due a refund (and will therefore request personal/bank details), to threatening phone calls outlining that they are about to be arrested for tax fraud and will therefore need to make an immediate “payment” to avoid this. Fraudsters now have the capacity to clone HMRC numbers so that the number appearing on the individual’s phone is actually a legitimate HMRC number.

If HMRC is genuinely chasing payments or starting a fraud investigation, either the individual or your advisors would have seen written correspondence direct from HMRC. Correspondence would then be verified and actioned appropriately.

HMRC Guidance

In March 2019, HMRC revealed that it had received more than 60,000 reports of scam calls in the 6 months leading up to January 2019. This was a 360% increase in reports compared to the previous six months.

Guidance from HMRC states the following:

  • HMRC will never contact you via email, text message or phone call which:
    •  tells you about a tax rebate or penalty or;
    •  request for personal or payment instruction.
  • HMRC will only ever call you asking for a payment on a debt that you are already aware of, either having received a letter about it, or after you’ve told us you owe some tax, for example through a self-assessment return.

Signs of a scam

If you are contacted by a fraudster, there are a number of tell-tale signs you can look out for:

Call

  • Genuine organisations (such as banks or HMRC) will never randomly call you and ask for personal details.

Email

  • Incorrect ‘from’ address – these addresses will often have accounts with HMRC or revenue names in them.
  • Personal information – HMRC will never request personal details or notify you of any tax rebate/repayment via email.
  • Urgent action required – emails will often ask for immediate action; genuine HMRC contact would not request you contact them or log in to your Government Gateway
  • Fake websites – these websites are designed to trick you into providing personal information
  • Common greeting – fraudsters will often send high volumes of emails in one go.
  • Attachments – some attachments contain viruses to steal your personal information.

Reporting suspicious activities

If you feel that you may have been in contact with a fraudster pretending to be HMRC then you can contact HMRC at phishing@hmrc.gov.uk or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 if you suffer financial loss.

If you have revealed any personal information to a suspicious email or text then contact the HMRC security team at security.custcon@hmrc.gov.uk. Make sure you provide them with a brief outline of what was provided but do not disclose any personal details in the email.

Contact us

If you would like to discuss this with us in more detail or if you have any questions, please contact Hannah Farmborough or call on 0207 429 4147 to contact your local representative.

This article originally appeared on the blog of our member firm, MHA Tait Walker.