The HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned the British public to be vigilant against scams and fraud attempts, as the remaining annual renewal packs are due to arrive via post this week.
The alert was issued in response to more than 1 million referrals and suspicious contacts received by the public from April 2020 to April 2021, with more than half offering fake tax rebates.
The department has also removed more than 3,000 suspicious phone numbers and 15,700 malicious web pages with the help of telecom companies and the nations’ communications regular (Ofcom).
In total, HMRC’s Cyber Security Operations has responded to nearly 450,000 phone scam reports, up 135% from last year.
“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,” said Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services.
“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’.”
Despite the agency’s successes in impeding spoofing of helpline numbers, fraudsters using social engineering skills may still fool citizens into providing personally identifiable information (PII) and financial data.
As such, customers who can’t verify the identity of a caller should end contact with the individual and hang up the phone.
The alert underlines that renewing online by logging into the government website is “quick and easy,” and customers can also check on the progress of their renewal.
To make sure customers don’t fall victim to fraudulent schemes, HMRC advises the following:
- Don’t provide personal information, reply to text messages, download attachments or reply to unsolicited emails claiming to be from the HRMC
- Don’t trust caller IDs on smartphones, as the numbers can be spoofed
- Reject, refuse and ignore requests that rush or panic you into providing your personal and financial information
- Research similar scams and brush up on the latest phishing and smishing fraud attempts
- Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC via firstname.lastname@example.org
- Contact your bank if you suspect any fraudulent attempts or have fallen victim to a scam
- Report scams and fraud via Action Fraud