Well, HMRC scam emails and text messages are at large once again, so we thought we’d put together an article that tells you how to recognise them and what to do if you receive one.
Firstly, how can you tell whether an email or text message is genuine or not?
The simple answer to this question is that HMRC NEVER use email or text message as the initial form of communication when contacting an individual to inform them that they are due a refund, such correspondence is only ever done by letter. They will also never contact you by telephone or outsource contact to an external company. If you receive a correspondence from HMRC that has not arrived by post, then it is a fake. Fact!
In addition to the above, HMRC will also never:
- ask you to disclose personal information such as your full address, postcode, Unique Taxpayer Reference or details of your bank account
- give a non HMRC personal email address to send a response to
- ask for financial information such as specific figures or tax computations, unless you’ve given them prior consent and have formally accepted the risks
- have attachments, unless you’ve given prior consent and you’ve formally accepted the risks
- provide a link to a secure log-in page or a form asking for information – instead they will ask you to log on to your online account to check for information
Make sure that you contact your accountant before clicking on any links or responding to any email or text message regarding your tax affairs, they can check online to reassure you.
Secondly, what do these emails/text messages look like? How do you recognise them?
1. Poor English
Although these emails will often display the HMRC logo and official looking reference numbers, the incorrect spelling and grammar (including abbreviations that you would not find within a genuine correspondence from HMRC) or the use of vocabulary which, while correctly spelt, may not “sit right” within the context of the email or text message, should set alarm bells ringing.
EG. You have until 20 November 2016 to apply for your tax claim (A genuine correspondence would refer to a tax “refund” rather than a tax “claim”
Genuine emails will also address you by the name you have given to HMRC rather than “customer” or “Taxpayer”
Scammers usually give you a short amount of time to respond. Their strategy is to make you panic and respond without allowing time for doubt and suspicion to enter their minds.
3. Not received from an official HMRC email address
In the past, scam HMRC emails may have come from a foreign domain and therefore arguably slightly easier to spot. However, it could also be argued that we have become progressively more “street-wise” about email and the Internet generally, whereas in the past we would have been less so. In response to the increased awareness of their audience, scammers get evermore cunning. Consequently, scam HMRC emails are now frequently received from email addresses which, at first glance, appear to be genuine, ie ending in HMRC.gov.uk. Here are some examples of email addresses that have been reported to have distributed scam tax rebate emails.
Other reported endings to email addresses have included the following
Finally, what should you do if I receive an email/text message from HMRC?
If you do receive a suspicious email or text message from HMRC then it is important that you send it to HMRC for investigation to help prevent those who are less aware from falling prey to these scammers in the future. All such emails and text messages should be forwarded to HMRC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, you must report your concerns to your bank or card issuer as soon as possible if ever you have reason to believe that you may have been the victim of an email or text message scam.
We hope you have found this article interesting and informative. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your concerns about scam HMRC emails or text messages further, please contact Trinity on 02475 185286 for a Free Online Consultation or click the link below.