Whilst trying to cheat and scam people out of their money is not a new trend, we are becoming increasingly aware of very sophisticated scam tactics being used to exploit small business owners and the self-employed, meaning it can be easy to be conned if you’re not paying close attention.

Scammers are seeing an opportunity to prey on the difficulties many are facing in the current economic landscape, along with confusion around rapidly changing government guidelines.

As a rule, any correspondence relating to a Covid-19 ‘tax rebate’ or ‘good will payment’ from HMRC will not be genuine. There has been a marked increase in text and email scams promising free government money since the start of the pandemic.

We’ve also recently had many of our clients receiving a letter from HMRC relating to PAYE, that we had to do some real digging to see if it was genuine, as upon first look, you wouldn’t think it was a scam.

This is an example of the PAYE letter. As you can see from the letter, it looks very realistic. However, the phone number is not genuine. So if you call up, the fictional overdue payment and your bank details will be taken by the scammer.

Emails and Texts

  • Check the email address, if the senders address doesn’t end ‘gov.uk’ it is not genuine
  • Check the subject, you won’t be notified of a rebate in the subject or body of an email or text
  • HMRC will ask you to log into your own online account for secure messages, with no link
  • HMRC will never use ‘WhatsApp’ to contact you
  • Avoid clicking on links you didn’t expect, navigate only on a secure web browser to your own HMRC login or to the information source

Letters

  • Question all information, does it look and feel right
  • Check for spelling errors and grammatical mistakes
  • Check for accuracy of names, dates and HMRC reference numbers
  • Liabilities or rebates should be checked on your trial balance

Phone Calls

  • Hang up if the call is an automated or recorded message
  • If you are unsure whether the caller is from HMRC, ask them if you can call back
  • If needed, find the HMRC contact number yourself to return the call

HMRC’s own advice on scams

Stop:

  • Take a moment to think before parting with your information or money.
  • Don’t give out private information or reply to text messages, and don’t download attachments or click on links in texts or emails you weren’t expecting.

Challenge:

  • It’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests – only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Search ‘scams’ on GOVUK for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact and how to avoid and report scams.

Protect:

  • Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599.
  • Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam and report it to Action Fraud.

Source: Gov.uk

If you receive any correspondence from HMRC, it’s always best to contact HMRC directly or us before paying or clicking any links. Speak to your Client Manager or Principal Adviser by calling 01474 853 856 if you have any concerns.

Contact me today!

Richard Oxtoby

Payroll Co-ordinator

01474 853856

Send me a message

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