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As the January 31 deadline for self-assessment tax returns approaches, beware of scams, Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention membership body warns. On top of scammers taking advantage of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic over 2020, HMRC received more than 846,000 reports of suspicious communications impersonating them in the 12 months to November 2020. This includes over 300,000 suspicious phone calls – a 47 per cent increase from the previous 12 months, says Cifas.
Criminals will often attempt to dupe unsuspecting victims by impersonating HMRC over the phone, by email and on the internet. They entice their victims by either offering them a benefit, such as a fake grant or refund, or panic the victim by telling them they need to make additional payments. These attempts are often made with the intention of leading victims to ‘phishing’ websites which collect both personal and banking details to be used in identity fraud.
Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, said: ‘As the deadline for self-assessment tax returns approaches, criminals will look to dupe taxpayers, many of which may already be struggling due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. Fraudsters will go to great lengths to put pressure on taxpayers including threatening legal action or sending in bailiffs, and this is designed to panic victims into making hasty decisions.
‘Remember that HMRC will never ask you to provide personal or financial details, download attachments or click on links in emails or texts. If you do receive a suspicious communication from HMRC, then report it to them straight away, even if you have not clicked on any links or provided any information.’
If you’re unsure the email you’ve received from HMRC is legitimate, you can email email@example.com and forward any suspicious texts to 60599. If you have fallen victim for a scam, Cifas advise that you contact your bank at once and report it to the police through their national line, Action Fraud; although, as ever since the first lockdown of March 2020, Action Fraud’s website says that its contact centre is providing a reduced service.