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Tips to avoiding tax scams

With the deadline for self-assessment tax returns on January 31 getting closer, it’s likely we’ll see scammers come out of the woodwork to prey on unsuspecting taxpayers, warns Tony Neate, Chief Executive, Get Safe Online. Such scammers may request information to give them access to a victims’ bank or payment card accounts to steal their money.

Tony Neate says: “During last year’s tax credit renewal period, nearly 25,000 phishing emails were reported to HMRC and 611 scam websites were shut down. This doesn’t mean to say that this sort of scam will suddenly disappear. As we edge closer to the end of the month, it is likely we will see even more hoax websites and emails begin to appear. Luckily, these timely scams are avoidable if you know what to look for.

“Taxpayers need to be on high alert for any suspicious emails or texts that trick them into sharing personal or payment information or which make them pay for a service which through the official government, should be free. HMRC will never inform you about a tax rebate or penalty over email or text, so if you do receive emails asking for personal information, report them immediately to make sure you don’t fall victim.”

Things to look out for:

1. The sender’s email address is different from the trusted organisation’s website address. – maybe add when you click on the email name the email address is different from the trusted organisation’s website address
2. The email is sent from a completely different address or a free webmail address
3. The email does not use your proper name, but uses a non-specific greeting such as “Dear customer.”
4. A sense of urgency; for example the threat that unless you act immediately your account may be closed
5. A request for personal information such as username , password or bank details.

Get Safe Online’s tips to avoiding tax scams:

1) Some websites can look like they’re part of an official government service or that they provide more help than they actually do. This might mean you pay for services that you could get cheaper or for free if you used the official government service

2) Remember that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will never use texts or emails to tell you about a tax rebate or penalty or ask for personal or payment information

3) If you do receive any suspicious phishing emails or texts asking for personal payment information, forward them to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk or check HMRC’s guidance on recognising scams.

4) Beware of e-mails with attachments which could contain viruses designed to steal personal or financial information. The attachment should not be opened or forwarded and the email should be deleted immediately.

5) Despite the fact many websites are being shut down, many copycat websites that promise to renew anything from passports to driving licences, are still out there. Stay alert when updating these things online and if you do have suspicions, the likelihood is that the site is not what it says it is.

6) If you think you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk


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