Increasing number of taxpayers targeted with threatening tax scams, HMRC warns

Mar 18, 2021
Scam

Taxpayers should remain vigilant to tax scams “threatening arrest” following a surge in reports, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has warned.

The warning comes after a significant number of “concerned individuals” contacted the offices of HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) following emails or phone calls about their tax affairs.

The scam takes advantage of a practice known as “spoofing” to mimic legitimate phone numbers and email addresses, so that they appear to be sent from a genuine Government department, such as HMCTS.

The caller will allege that you owe HMRC money – usually due to a mistake in your tax return or that your National Insurance number has been used fraudulently – and inform you that a warrant for your arrest has been issued.

To support their claim, the scammer may also ask you to look up the official contact details for HMCTS courts and offices to verify the number they are using to call – which has been spoofed.

Highlighting the scam, HMRC reminded taxpayers that HMCTS is a separate Government department and will never contact you about tax matters.

Any email or phone call suspected of being a scam should be reported to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime.

Commenting on the recent surge in scams, Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said: “Criminals are experts at impersonating organisations that we know and trust. We work closely with HMRC to raise awareness of current scams and encourage people to report any suspicious calls or messages they receive, even if they haven’t acted on them, to the relevant channels.

“It’s important to remember if you’re contacted out the blue by someone purporting to be from HMRC asking for your personal or financial details, or offering you a tax rebate, grant or refund, this could be a scam.

“Do not respond, hang up the phone, and take care not to click on any links in unexpected emails or text messages. You should contact HMRC directly using a phone number you’ve used before to check if the communication you have received is genuine.”

According to the latest statistics, HMRC has responded to more than 846,000 referrals of suspicious HMRC contact from the public in the last 12 months.

For help and advice with related matters, please get in touch with our expert team today.

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