HMRC have received a new wave of calls and emails due to scams that have surfaced since the outbreak of COVID-19. Scammers are targeting people with the use of Coronavirus support messages in the hope that these selected people fall for the scam and pass over personal details, such as those to their bank account. It is important that you can identify the real from the fake when it comes to handing over private information at such a crucial time.
Please note: If you are weary that you may have been on the receiving end of a scam, report this to HMRC directly by emailing with the date, time, phone number and form of scam message as soon as possible and do not reply to the message in any way.
If you have fallen victim of financial loss due to a scam you believed to have been real information, contact the police’s Action Fraud team immediately.
A common phishing scam that has surfaced in the last month, and has been received by a number of our colleagues, is a text informing you that the government are aware that you have left your home more than once a day and as a result, expect you to pay a fine. They will lead you to believe that the money will be taken out of your account automatically unless you dial a number that they list within the text. It is likely that, once dialing this number, they will ask you to confirm personal information with them over the phone to ensure that the money doesn’t come out of your account. This is how they expect to gain your bank account or card details. The text may seem reliable due to the fact that they list the website address of GOV at the end of the message, but please think before taking action on messages like these.
We were able to know that this was a scam instantly due to two factors:
- HMRC will never send you a text asking you to share personal details.
- The fining system had not been announced officially by the Government themselves. An action as drastic as this will always have an announcement made beforehand.
The same goes for WhatsApp. HMRC will never contact you via a WhatsApp message, so it is important to report and delete these messages from your phone as soon as possible.
There are a few landline scams floating up and down the country at the moment. You may receive, or have already received, an automated phone call claiming to be HMRC, informing you that a lawsuit is being filed against you and that you must press ‘1’ to speak to someone and make payment. If this happens, hang up the phone immediately and report directly to HMRC.
You may also find yourself answering the phone to find that you are being issued with a tax refund. If you are unable to identify the caller, hang up and again, report it. If you do hang up and remain unsure if it was a real call or not, you can contact HMRC or your bank to find out if this was a call that you were supposed to receive.
Emails have proven the most effective when it comes to scammers – especially the one that HMRC are aware of that is circulating at the moment. It will be hard to figure if the email address is official or not, so pay attention to the contents of the message instead. The email will inform you that, in the same way as the phone call, you are entitled to a tax refund to protect yourself from the impact that COVID-19 is leaving. This email has been seen in a number of different structures, so if you receive any that inform you of a refund, be sure to delete and report.
The email will contain a website link which is set out to convince you further that it has come from the official HMRC address. However, the website is fake. It will ask you to input personal information such as your name, full address, bank details, card number and a ‘security question’ such as “What is your mother’s maiden name?”. Do not fill in any of these details and report the website link to HMRC at the same time that you report the email address and message contents.
Remember, HMRC will never email you in regard to a refund and request personal details. This information will always come via the post.
It is less common for post from HMRC to be a scam due to it becoming increasingly hard to find a correct full name matched with the correct address and postcode. However, if you are unsure about a letter that you have received and believe that it is from someone who is impersonating HMRC, take a look at the contents. If they have listed bank details for you to send a payment to, check with HMRC that they are the correct details. The same goes with the phone number or name of contact who has written the letter to you.
You may fall victim of receiving an ‘Act now’ payment request via the post, but again, check this with HMRC directly. The Revenue and Customs office are unlikely to send out immediate requests such as these.
It is possible for you to check if any of these scams are reliable by contacting your bank, accountants or HMRC directly who will all give you thorough and accurate advice, especially during this time of need and trust.
If you would like to check that you haven’t fallen victim to any of the above mentioned scams, or would like assistance with any other COVID-19 or taxation related issues, such as furloughing guidelines or VAT deferrals, give our friendly team at Hammonds Accountants a call on 020 8249 6328 or drop us an email at where we will be happy to help.