How to Spot and Avoid Tax Refund Scams?
When tax season rolls around, email inboxes nationwide are flooded with messages claiming to be from HMRC about tax refunds. But it’s not just emails; scammers are also using text messages and automated phone calls to deceive individuals.
These communications are typically from fraudsters aiming to steal your bank or card details through sophisticated phishing schemes.
Here’s a typical scenario: After the 31st January deadline (when many are rushing to file their Self Assessment), you might receive an email that seems to be from HMRC’s tax department, notifying you of a refund. This email will usually direct you to an external site or ask you to download a form to claim your refund. In reality, by following these instructions, you’re handing over sensitive information to criminals.
There are often subtle signs that these communications are scams: minor spelling or formatting errors, questionable security certificates, odd email addresses, or strange characters in the text. However, in the excitement of a potential refund, many overlook these red flags.
Identifying Scam Emails: Remember, any email, text, or voicemail about a tax rebate claiming to be from HMRC is likely a scam. If HMRC owes you a refund, they’ll notify you by mail.
Other indicators of scam emails include:
- Being automatically sorted into your spam folder.
- Odd sender email addresses.
- A blank “address to” field, suggesting a mass blind copy.
- Generic greetings, not addressing you by name.
- Overly detailed forms asking for excessive personal information.
Scammers are also known to use other tactics, like fake VAT emails. Always be cautious and stay updated on the latest fraudulent methods.
Peak Scam Season:
The months from January to April are prime time for these scams, aligning with the publicity around Self Assessment deadlines and the end of the tax year. Scammers prey on the uncertainty of those who’ve filed early and the anxiety of last-minute filers.
Reporting Suspicious Emails to HMRC:
Given the prevalence of these scams, HMRC has set up a dedicated service for reporting phishing emails. If you receive a suspicious email, forward it to email@example.com so HMRC’s fraud teams can investigate.
After forwarding, it’s best to delete the email or mark it as spam.
For Count clients, if you come across any dubious emails, texts, calls, or letters, please share the details with your client manager to verify its legitimacy.