Tax payers and businesses urged to watch out for scammers

by Michael Blaken

Published on 1st December 2021

With the deadline for self-assessment returns looming in January, HMRC is warning people to be aware of tax-related scams which abound at this time of year.

beware tax scammers

And the team here are Optimum are also urging businesses to be on their guard against fraudsters, claiming to be offering Government-backed secured loans.

HMRC: self-assessment scam warning

HMRC is warning people in self-assessment to be on their guard after nearly 800,000 tax-related scams were reported in the last year.

Fraudsters use self-assessment to try and steal money or personal information from unsuspecting individuals. In the last year alone, HMRC has received nearly 360,000 bogus tax rebate referrals.

As the self-assessment deadline is 31 January 2022, people are expecting to hear from HMRC around this time of year so it is a good time for scammers to strike.

However, HMRC is warning customers notto be taken in by malicious emails, phone calls or texts, thinking that these are genuine.

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said: “Never let yourself be rushed. If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard. HMRC will also never ring up threatening arrest. Only criminals do that.

“Scams come in many forms. Some threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion, others offer a tax rebate. Contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so if you are in any doubt whether the email, phone call or text is genuine, you can check the ‘HMRC scams’ advice on GOV.UK and find out how to report them to us.”

People can report suspicious phone calls using a form on GOV.UK. They can also forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@nullhmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599.

HMRC is also reminding people to double check websites and online forms before using them to complete their 2020/21 tax return. People can be taken in by misleading websites designed to make them pay for help in submitting tax returns or charging to connect them to HMRC phone lines.

Warning on bogus Government loan offer

At Optimum, we’re aware of a scam letter being sent to start-up businesses, claiming they are eligible for a Government-backed loan.

The letter states the loan is pre-approved for businesses trading for less than two years, in sectors most affected by the pandemic, and is part of a post-Covid recovery scheme.

Convincingly worded, the letter goes on to invite applications via a website or by scanning a QR code.

The giveaway is the website address given in the letter – it’s not a GOV.UK address, although it is similar.

We’d urge all businesses to be on their guard and, if they are at all unsure, seek advice before following up with any offers of loans, and particularly not to click any links, or QR codes, or hand over any bank details.

At Optimum, we help businesses and individuals in Swindon, Cheltenham, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire with tax planning, personal tax, accountancy and legal services. For help or advice , please get in touch.

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