Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, is warning UK taxpayers to be vigilant of scams as the 31st January deadline for self-assessment tax returns approaches. On top of scammers taking advantage of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic throughout 2020, HMRC received more than 846,000 reports of suspicious communications impersonating them in the 12 months leading up to November 2020. This includes over 300,000 suspicious phone calls – a 47% increase from the previous 12 month period.

Criminals will often attempt to dupe unsuspecting victims by impersonating HMRC over the phone, by email and on the internet. They entice their victims by either offering them a benefit, such as a fake grant or refund, or panic the victim by telling them they need to make additional payments. These attempts are often made with the intention of leading victims to ‘phishing’ websites which collect both personal and banking details to be used in identity fraud.

Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, said “As the deadline for self-assessment tax returns approaches, criminals will look to dupe taxpayers, many of which may already be struggling due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. Fraudsters will go to great lengths to put pressure on taxpayers including threatening legal action or sending in bailiffs, and this is designed to panic victims into making hasty decisions.”

“Remember that HMRC will never ask you to provide personal or financial details, download attachments or click on links in emails or texts. If you do receive a suspicious communication from HMRC, then report it to them straight away, even if you have not clicked on any links or provided any information.”