Getting a call, email or text from HM Revenue and Customs can always be a worry, especially if you’re in a confusing tax bracket such as self-employed, retired or on benefits. It is that fear and uncertainty that a selection of scammers are preying on to steal thousands of pounds from the vulnerable.
HMRC Gift Card Scam
Hundreds of older and more vulnerable people have been conned out of around a thousand pounds when they’re called, told they owe a large amount of tax, told they’ll be taken to court or even arrested if they don’t pay it, and told to buy gift cards and read out the gift card numbers over the phone to pay off the debt.
It might sound unlikely that HMRC would ask to be paid in Apple iTunes gift cards, but remember that these call makers can be very convincing, induce panic, and older people potentially might not understand where Apple fits in.
HMRC will never call and demand money there and then and will definitely never ask for payment in gift cards.
HMRC Rebate and Refund Scam
A tax refund is always a great bonus, and when you receive an email saying all you need to do is click through and fill in your details to claim your £1271.31, it’s easy enough to take the bait.
Unfortunately, this can be a phishing scam where fraudsters are collecting your personal data to use for their own means, potentially fraud and identity theft. In 2017-18, HMRC received 771,227 reports of tax refund and rebate scams.
HMRC will never email out of the blue and ask for your bank details, PIN, passwords or memorable data. If you’re genuinely worried you’re missing out on a rebate, call HMRC on the number on the government website. Don’t click through links on unexpected emails and always follow HMRC advice.
HMRC Voicemail Scam
People are called and left a voicemail telling them they owe a big tax bill, they are under investigation, they could be arrested and sometimes people are even told they are under surveillance. They are told that because they’ve been notified, they need to call a special phone number provided, and follow the automated instructions.
The automated instructions include asking for personal and bank details. This person is then vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. By the time they realise this it is often too late.
If you are unsure on the identity of a caller claiming to be from HMRC don’t take their word for it. Call the official number on the government website. If someone is telling you that hanging up will mean a warrant for your arrest will be issued, hang up right away.
What to do if you’re a victim of a HMRC scam
Don’t be embarrassed into silence. You are not alone – a third of all Britons have been the victim of fraud at some point in their lives. Contact Action Fraud and let them know what has happened. In addition to your potentially stopping this scammer, you will get a crime reference number which might go some way to any ways you are trying to get the money back.
In addition, you’ll be able to get some advice on limiting any damage they might have done and prevent any further frauds.