Beware of Spring Tax Scams

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Why are scammers likely to target taxpayers in spring?

HRMC is warning taxpayers to be wary of springtime scams. From March to May last year, there were a quarter of a million reports of scams. HMRC had to shut down around 6,000 websites operating tax scams. As this is the time of year when HMRC is genuinely contacting people about tax rebates, they anticipate another surge in tax scams.

What are spring tax scams?

Spring tax scams are the common scams which occur in the springtime. Following Self-Assessment tax return submissions in January, HMRC is legitimately offering tax rebates from April onwards for those who have overpaid. Scammers take advantage of this by posing as HMRC. Knowing that people may be hoping for a tax rebate, they contact individuals to claim that they have one. They will invite the person to provide their personal and financial details in order to confirm their tax refund. In reality, you will simply be handing over sensitive information which the scammers will use for theft and fraudulent purposes. These messages usually arrive as texts or e-mails with a link. The scammers make it look like an official government website to trick people into entering details.

Who should watch out for spring tax scams?

Tax scams like this commonly aim to trick elderly and vulnerable people who may not be able to recognize a phishing scam. They can come in the form of letters or threatening phone calls as well as texts or e-mails, so all taxpayers should be aware of them. You should ensure that elderly and vulnerable people know not to respond to things like this. However, HMRC is also warning young adults to be especially vigilant. If you have not had much experience interacting with HMRC, you may not be able to recognize legitimate correspondence either. Young people who rely on mobile and online banking may be vulnerable to text and e-mail scams.

What are experts saying about spring tax scams?

HMRC is reminding people that they will issue tax rebates directly and automatically. They would not contact you first and ask you to provide your personal details online or over the phone. The Head of Customer Services confirms that HMRC shuts down hundreds of these fraudulent websites each month. They advise not responding to such messages and reporting them instead. The Head of Action Fraud also advises people to be wary of attachments in e-mails or texts which could contain viruses. You can forward suspicious e-mails to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk or scam texts to 60599. Contact Action Fraud if you have lost money to a scam.

How can you recognize spring tax scams and avoid them?

Remember that HMRC issues tax refunds automatically. Any repayment will go directly into your bank account, or they will send you a cheque. If you did not pay enough tax, HMRC will tell you how much you owe and how to pay it to them securely. They will never ask a taxpayer to provide their details over text, e-mail, or a phone call. Do not download and open attachments or click on links if you receive a message like this. If anyone claiming to be a representative of HMRC contacts you and asks for your details, it is definitely not legitimate. You can look at examples of scam communications here and compare them if you get a suspicious one.