HMRC warns of tax-refund scam email tricking people into disclosing personal information

Warning of a HMRC tax-rebate scam asks users for their personal information   (Yui Mok / PA Archive)
Warning of a HMRC tax-rebate scam asks users for their personal information (Yui Mok / PA Archive)

A worrying scam has been circulating of late, involving HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and tax refunds.

Fraudsters are sending scam emails and SMS messages tricking people into disclosing their account and personal details.

HMRC has acknowledged more than 180,000 public reports of potential HMRC scams in the 12 months to August 2022, with most being from fraudsters offering fake tax rebates.

What’s more, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) recently revealed that HMRC scams were the third most-reported email impersonation scams via its Suspicious Email Reporting Service  (SERS).

As scams and frauds reach fever pitch amid the continued cost-of-living crisis, many are enticed with this offer, falling into deeper debt as a result.

But how can you protect yourself against these scammers?

How to avoid a HMRC scam

Scams can happen via phone calls, text messages, emails, social media, or even in person, and fraudsters can even forge HMRC branding to look convincing.

But HMRC will never ask for personal or financial information when sending text messages.

Their website reads: “Do not open any links or reply to a text message claiming to be from HMRC that offers you a tax refund in exchange for personal or financial details.”

With emails, often the sender line will be suspicious, often coming from another country.

Common email scams include offering Britons the chance to secure a tax refund.

“Our transaction-management system detects that you are entitled to receive this payment,” the email reads.

Other scams include emails telling you to update your details, to say your details have already been changed, and notifications requesting you to pay customs duty to receive a non-existent valuable parcel - this is also being sent via text.

People are also receiving scam letters and phone-calls. HMRC will always use a QR code on their letters to take you to verified site. You should never give any personal details over the phone. If in doubt, put the phone down and contact HMRC to verify.

“The key to preventing these types of scams is to take a few minutes to check you are dealing with a legitimate source and never be pressured to act quickly,” explained Metro bank’s head of fraud and investigations, Baz Thompson.

He added: “Avoid clicking on any advert you see on social media and be aware that most fraudsters want to make the offer seem appealing by offering great returns on your money quickly – both the rate and speed should make you suspicious and act with caution.

“Sadly, consumers should also be aware that scammers can compromise the social-media accounts of their friends and then make contact as if it was their friend making a recommendation.

“A good rule of thumb is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Visit the Government site to find out all the ways scammers are targeting the public.

How to report a HMRC scam

The HMRC website states: “You should send any suspicious text messages to 60599 (network charges apply) or email - then delete them.”

You can report scam calls received on your mobile to 7726 for free, as well as using this HMRC link.

Suspicious websites can be reported to the National Cyber Security Centre.

And you can report messages on social media as well. With direct messages on Twitter, tap and hold the message and select ‘Report Message’. On Instagram, tap the space next to the message and press ‘Report’. While with Facebook, press and hold the message you want to report, press more, and then ‘Report’.

You can also check if a letter is genuine by visiting the Government’s HMRC site.