With the Self-Assessment tax deadline of 31 January 2022 looming, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is urging customers to be on their guard against fraudsters attempting to steal their money or personal information. Nearly 800,000 tax-related scams were reported in the past year, including almost 360,000 bogus tax rebate referrals.
HMRC is issuing more than 4 million emails and SMS text messages this week to Self-Assessment customers to remind them of the deadline. However, the department is also warning customers to not be taken in by malicious emails, phone calls or texts.
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said: “Never let yourself be rushed. If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard. HMRC will also never ring up threatening arrest. Only criminals do that.
“Scams come in many forms. Some threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion, others offer a tax rebate. Contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so if you are in any doubt whether the email, phone call or text is genuine, you can check the ‘HMRC scams’ advice on GOV.UK and find out how to report them to us.”
Criminals use emails, phone calls and text messages to try and dupe individuals, and often mimic government messages to make them appear authentic.
In response to the malicious activities of fraudsters, HMRC set up a dedicated team to combat cyber and phone crimes. Since 2017 their technical controls have prevented 500 million emails from reaching HMRC’s customers. More recently, new controls have prevented 90% of the most convincing SMS messages from reaching the public and controls have been applied to prevent spoofing of most HMRC helpline numbers.
HMRC is also reminding Self-Assessment customers to double check websites and online forms before using them to complete their 2020/21 tax return. People can be taken in by misleading websites designed to make them pay for help in submitting tax returns or charging to connect them to HMRC phone lines.