Nearly 800,000 tax-related scams were reported to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in the past 12 months, a major study has revealed.
The figures come as the tax authority prepares to send millions of emails and text messages to taxpayers ahead of the January Self Assessment deadline.
According to the report, HMRC responded to 797,010 referrals of suspicious contact from the public in the last year. Around 358,000 of these involved scams where taxpayers were offered bogus tax rebates.
During the same period, the tax authority also received 327,044 reports of phone scams – up 21 per cent compared to the previous 12 months.
As a result of these referrals, HMRC helped to remove more than 1,282 phone numbers being used to commit HMRC-related phone scams, as well as 8,561 malicious websites set up for the same purpose.
Ahead of the 31 January tax return deadline, HMRC is warning taxpayers to “be on their guard”. The department will be sending more than four million emails and text messages over the coming months, but fraudsters will use this window as an opportunity to intercept and impersonate the tax authority.
It is not uncommon for scammers to use intimidating tactics, such as threatening arrest over an unpaid tax bill, to persuade someone to hand over their government gateway credentials or credit card information.
“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,” said Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services.
“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.”
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