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Scammers claiming to be from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have been bombarding people with text, emails and phone calls.
HMRC has advised customers to be vigilant about communications purporting to be from them.
People have been advised not to transfer money or share personal details in order to claim bogus overpayments from HRMC.
It says it could be a scam if the contact is unexpected; offers a refund, tax rebate or grant; asks for personal information like bank details; is threatening or tells you to transfer money.
In the year to April 2021, the public reported 1.1 million ‘suspicious contacts’ with more than half-a-million of those involving the offer of a bogus tax rebate, said HMRC.
More than 3,000 telephone numbers which have been used to make malicious and fraudulent calls have been struck off by watchdog Ofcom, it said.
And more than 15,000 scam web pages also been taken down by internet service providers.
HMRC said it responded to 443,033 reports of phone scams in the last year – 135 per cent up on the previous year.
Tax credit renewal scams are now doing the rounds as HMRC sends out literature between April and June as the deadline approaches on July 31.
Anyone doing their tax credits renewal is warned to watch out for scammers, it said.
HMRC said its cyber security operations identifies and closes down scams every day.
The department says it has pioneered controls to stop its helpline numbers being spoofed.
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: ‘We’re urging all of our customers to be really careful if they are contacted out of the blue by someone asking for money or bank details.
‘There are a lot of scams out there where fraudsters are calling, texting or emailing customers claiming to be from HMRC.
‘If you have any doubts, we suggest you don’t reply directly, and contact us yourself straight away. Search GOV.UK for our ‘scams checklist’ and to find out ‘how to report tax scams’.”
Many scams mimic government messages to appear authentic and reassuring, it said, with HMRC being a familiar brand which criminals abuse to add credibility to their scams, it said.
How to report a suspicious phone call, text or email: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/contact/reporting-fraudulent-emails