Yes, another article about HMRC scammers. They constantly change their tactics and use every possible current event – and any fears surrounding it – to swindle money from innocent people.

Two current scams are to do with our third lockdown and the imminent self assessment tax return deadline. We’re sharing these details to keep you safe from these criminals.

Third lockdown scam

People have reported a text message scam to HMRC, which reads:

“From HMRC: The third lockdown has been announced, we have been issued a grant off £240 to help during this period, visit to claim.”  Followed by a link to a website.

When you click through to the website it does looks convincing, with the logo, font and layout you’d expect of a government website. You’re asked to enter your bank card details so that you can claim your lockdown grant.

How do I know it’s a scam?

  • Randomly issued ‘lockdown grants’ aren’t a thing
  • HMRC will not inform you of money you’re entitled to by text message
  • The text is poorly written, with confusing grammar
  • There’s a spelling mistake in the text – ‘off’, when it should say ‘of’
  • The website is not hosted on the official domain, which you can see in its address field

The purpose of this scam is to get access to your bank details in order to steal your money. This is only one of many coronavirus scams, you must remain vigilant against any communications that you’re not expecting and looks too good to be true.

Self assessment tax return deadline scam

If you need to complete a self assessment tax return, you know that the deadline is 11.59 on 31st January 2021. So do the scammers. There are always self assessment related scams at this time of year. The most recently reported variation is a text message which reads:

“HMRC: Our records show that you have a pending tax rebate. To calculate how much you are owed, visit…” Followed by a link to a website.

How do I know it’s a scam?

This is from HMRC’s guidance called ‘Examples of HMRC related phishing emails, suspicious phone calls and text’: “HMRC will never ask for personal or financial information when we send text messages. Do not reply if you get a text message claiming to be from HMRC offering you a tax refund in exchange for personal or financial details. Do not open any links in the message.”

It’s an easy call. If a text message says it’s from HMRC and is asking for any details, it’s fake.

HMRC do sometimes send text messages, which might be confusing, but they are usually to give information and don’t include links asking for your bank card or other private information.

Why are these scams running?

The simple answer is that these scams make criminals a lot of money. Either through straightforward stealing cash from bank accounts, or through the value of selling personal data. They are very good at manipulating emotions. These two examples rely on the temptation of a bit of extra money. And if you are expecting a tax rebate after filing your tax return, it makes it all the more plausible.

Some of the HMRC scams play on people’s fear of being in trouble with HMRC and the law. Previously, messages and actual phone calls have contained threats of HMRC taking out a lawsuit against the individual, unless they enter their details and pay now.

The financial strains of COVID-19 mean that people are susceptible to the promise of a windfall. Since March, HMRC have had reports of 275 different scams relating to the pandemic. HMRC have sent 254 requests to internet service providers to take down these pages.

They have also seen a 47% rise in scams relating to phone numbers, in comparison with last year’s figures. They’ve had 302,219 reports from members of the public about phone scams and asked for 3,387 phone lines to be taken down in the last year.

What should I do if I get a scam message, email or phone call?

For your security:

  • Do not verbally give any personal or bank details to anyone
  • Don’t click on any links
  • If you do click on a link, don’t enter any details for any reason
  • Hang up the phone, especially if you’re being threatened

To help HMRC:

HMRC’s usual secure phonelines are unavailable because the COVID-19 restrictions mean that a lot of their staff are working from home. This is why you can’t directly speak to HMRC about any contact you have.

As long as you don’t give any information to the scammers, in any way, you are safe from their criminal intentions. If they are threatening in nature, such contact can be understandably upsetting. So if you, or anyone you know, receives anything suspicious, it’s a good idea to report it. This helps HMRC in their constant battle with the fraudsters.