Self Assessment customers are being warned to be on their guard after more than 570,000 scams were reported to HMRC in the last year.
HM Revenue and Customs says reports of fraudulent texts, emails and calls have been logged in their thousands with criminals making persistent attempts to try and steal people’s money or personal information.
Now government officials are warning people to be on their guard following the passing of the Self Assessment deadline which, says the department, can increase the risk that people will be targeted as the scams make reference to the Self Assessment process to con people into thinking the call is genuine.
In the 12 months to January 2022 there were nearly 220,000 scams reported to HMRC offering bogus tax rebates alone.
While phone scams, in which criminals will attempt to appear as authentic HMRC staff often mimicking government messages as part of efforts to extract personal details, rocketed from 3,995 in January this year compared to 425 in 2020.
Customers can report suspicious phone calls using a form on the government website or forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to email@example.com and send texts to 60599.
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said: “If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard.
“Never let yourself be rushed, and if you’re in any doubt then check our ‘HMRC scams’ advice on GOV.UK.”
HMRC gave customers an extra month this year to submit a completed tax return and if customers filed by the end of February they would avoid a late filing penalty. More than 11.3 million customers filed their Self Assessment tax return by February 28 with more than one million of those taking advantage of the extra time.
Customers have until April 1 to pay their outstanding tax bill or set up a Time to Pay arrangement to avoid receiving a late payment penalty – making this point in the year a prime time for scammers who wish to capitalise on people’s current financial situations.
HMRC says it has a dedicated team working on cyber and phone crimes and since 2017, technology has prevented 500 million emails from reaching its customers. More recently, new controls have prevented 90% of the most convincing SMS messages from reaching the public and controls have been applied to prevent spoofing of most HMRC helpline numbers.