It is a sad fact that around this time of year, HMRC scams become more common.
Fraudsters and scammers of all varieties often pose as HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) staff, due to many taxpayers having payments due by 31st July. Scammers may attempt to communicate with you through a variety of methods, including emails, telephone calls, letters, and text messages.
The key thing we hope that you take from this blog is that if ever you are in any doubt about the authenticity of any communications you receive from HRMC, get in touch with your accountant immediately. Without a doubt, it is better safe than sorry.
Many of the letters and emails produced by scammers can appear very convincing, with little setting them apart from an authentic one. If HMRC ever contacts you seemingly out of the blue, requesting payment or information, then you should get in touch with your accountant (or HMRC directly if you don’t have an accountant) to validate the authenticity of the request.
Something important to note is that HMRC will NEVER text you, so you can immediately disregard any text messages you receive that claim to be from HMRC. Also, HMRC will NEVER email you, particularly when requesting payment. Alarm bells should start ringing if you are contacted via any of these methods.
From our experience, the three most important tell-tale signs of a scam are as follows:
- The communication requested is unexpected or hasn’t been mentioned by your accountant.
- There are spelling and/or grammatical errors in the letter, email or text. It is important to note though that some scam letters can be extremely well-written.
- Payment is asked to be made to an unconnected party in a different country or to a new supplier or customer.
- A demand for urgent payment might appear to come from a very senior person e.g. the CEO – be especially vigilant with this type of request if the person it’s coming from is on holiday or away on business. Double check with them, but not via email. Call them on a number you know is correct.
- Payment is for an abnormally large amount, or it could be for an amount that is identical to a regular payment (making it appear normal).
- To reiterate, if you have even the slightest suspicion that something isn’t quite right about the communication you receive, then get in touch with your accountant right away.