Just as the Self Assessment deadline rolls around each year, on 31st January, so do the reports that unscrupulous fraudsters and organised criminal gangs are targeting unsuspecting taxpayers with fraudulent texts, emails and calls promising tax refunds. Tax preparation specialist and Managing Director of DSR Tax Refunds Ltd, David Redfern, gives his top tips to help recognise those fraudulent communications and keep your finances safe from criminal activity over the Christmas period.
While fraudsters target unwitting members of the public year-round, the run up to the Self Assessment deadline on 31st January sees efforts increase. Redfern explains “Taking advantage of the fact that taxpayers will often have a heightened awareness of tax affairs at this time of year as well as the fact that emails and texts offering supposed windfalls in the form of tax rebates will be attractive to people seeking to finance Christmas, fraudulent activity always increases at this time of year. HMRC always makes an effort to warn taxpayers but unfortunately each year, we read reports of those who have been unfortunately duped. Although efforts have become increasingly sophisticated, there are usually ways of determining whether the communication is bogus or not”. Common scams includes texts and emails offering tax refunds or threatening phone calls stating that the taxpayer is being prosecuted by HMRC. These scams intend to persuade taxpayers to divulge their financial information, such as bank account details or bank card numbers.
The first things taxpayers should do on receipt of a potentially fraudulent communication is to stop for a moment and think. Redfern explains “Very often our first reaction is to act immediately, especially when the communication is threatening, perhaps suggesting that HMRC is taking court action or threatening a fine or penalty. Our most immediate reaction is to panic and very often common sense evaporates at the same time. However, if you receive a phone call from someone purporting to be from HMRC threatening to take you to court over a supposed non-payment of taxes, be aware that this is not how HMRC communicates with taxpayers. Their chosen method of communication is by letter and all instances of court action will be notified to you by letter. Additionally, legal action by HMRC is very often time consuming and lengthy so it is highly unlikely that you would be expected to pay up over the phone in the first instance of being notified. By taking a moment to think, you give yourself the valuable breathing space to question whether this is genuine communication. Fraudsters target that immediate panic – don’t give that to them”.
Other things to look out for include mistakes in spelling and grammar and the use of non-standard email addresses. Redfern explains “A keen eye will discover that these texts and emails are very often littered with spelling mistakes and poor use of grammar, often appearing to be written by those whose first language isn’t English. Additionally, email addresses will often give it away not ending ‘gov.uk’ – however, be warned that fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated techniques and can mask their email addresses and mobile numbers to look as though they are being sent from HMRC. Sometimes you can click on the email address and see the underlying address but this method may not always work – when in to doubt, do not act”.
A last piece of advice to keep your finances safe from criminal activity is never be afraid to check. Redfern states “The fraudsters work on the assumption that you will either be too panicked or too keen to claim a promised refund that you won’t check. However, no reputable organisation will ever be offended if you say you don’t want to hand your financial information over there and then and would rather check and get back to them. Banks, organisations like HMRC and companies like ours will always want to keep your financial information safe and so you will not offend anyone by giving yourself the time and breathing space to check that you are in fact communicating with who you think you are communicating with. Contact numbers for HMRC are easily available from the GOV website so you can call and check if required”.
If you suspect you have received fraudulent communication, you can forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org or 60599 for text messages. Never divulge your personal or financial information.
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About DSR Tax Refunds Ltd
DSR Tax Refunds Ltd are a firm of tax rebate specialists serving clients nationwide. DSR Tax Refunds are tax preparation experts who specialise in identifying potential allowable expenses for tax rebates for clients. Their specialist team can help employed and self-employed subcontractors with all relevant paperwork to ensure their claim is handled in an accurate and efficient manner.
For more about DSR Tax Refunds, visit https://tax-refunds.co.uk/