Don’t fall for HMRC scams

Sonja Polimac

 · 12/22/2020  · 12/22/2020

Recent news reports show a persistent scam where fraudsters pretending to work for the UK tax authority, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), contact people to trick them into giving them money. Here we share some tips to help you identify and avoid these scams.

What is the scam?

Scammers contact people by phone or text posing as employees of HMRC or other government agencies to coerce people into sending them a payment. They often claim that the victim of the fraud is in tax arrears and needs to settle quickly to avoid court action.

Warning signs

HMRC provides this useful checklist to help you identify whether the person who calls you could be a scammer. This can be applied to calls, texts and emails:

  • It is unexpected
  • Offers a refund, tax rebate or grant
  • Asks for personal information like bank details
  • Is threatening
  • Tells you to transfer money

People should also look out for another scam, where fraudsters contact people claiming they are in debt to HMRC and need to settle it quickly to avoid prosecution or fines which may lead them to face deportation, detention in prison or have their passport taken away.

Other signs to look out for (calls/messages):

  • HMRC will only call you asking about a claim or payment on a debt that you already know about
  • HMRC will never leave a voicemail threatening legal action
  • HMRC will never give the reason for a call on a voice message
  • WhatsApp messages: If you receive any communication through WhatsApp claiming to be from HMRC it’s a scam. Take a screenshot and forward it as an email to the HMRC security team
  • Gift or payment vouchers: HMRC will never ask you to pay with gift or payment vouchers

HMRC will never ask you to transfer money to a named account belonging to a person or an employee e.g. they won’t ask you to send money to ‘John Smith’.

Other important information

Click here for examples of HMRC related phishing emails and bogus contacts.

Check a list of genuine HMRC contacts here to help you decide if the one you’ve received is genuine.

You can report suspicious emails, text messages and calls to HMRC directly. If you have shared any personal information with scammers, you should report this to the HMRC security team at security.custcon@hmrc.gov.uk or phishing@hmrc.gov.uk. If you have fallen victim to a scam and lost money as a result, report it to your financial provider and Action Fraud.