According to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the number of emails, texts and voicemail messages sent by criminals pretending to be from the tax authority has increased in the past year.
In a recent press release, HMRC has warned that this is a prime time for criminals to try and trick taxpayers into sending them their bank account and personal details, as the organisation is currently processing tax refunds after the end of the last tax year.
A spokesman for the tax authority underlined the fact that HMRC only informs taxpayers about tax refunds through the post or through their pay via their employer. He added that all emails, text messages or voicemail messages saying that a taxpayer has a tax refund are a scam and people should not click on any links in these messages, as if a person does click on the link, they are taken to a “dubious website” where their information can be stolen.
In March 2018 the tax authority received 84,549 phishing reports and made requests for 2,672 phishing websites to be taken down. This kind of phishing is expected to continue in the coming months as genuine tax refunds are issued.
If someone is genuinely owed a tax refund for the 2017-18 tax year, they will receive a letter in the post between June and October. This can be a P800 or a Simple Assessment letter.
If the person has paid too much tax the letter will explain how they can get their refund. If they have not paid enough tax, the letter will tell them how much they owe and how they can pay.
Ideally, anyone receiving a suspicious message should forward it to HMRC’s phishing email address, which is firstname.lastname@example.org, or alternatively they can send a text message to 60599.