Tax scams

Don’t be fooled by scam tax emails made to look like they come from HMRC. Read our guide to find out how you can beat the scammers.

Tax phishing scams

In the run up to a tax deadline, tax phishing emails purporting to be from HM Revenue & Customs will be on the rise. 

Emails of this sort not only look official, but can often look like they’ve been sent from official government email addresses, making them harder to spot.

Scammers sometimes even sign off phishing emails with the name or signature of a genuine HMRC employee for added authenticity.

According to the National Trading Standards eCrime unit, HMRC is particularly used by fraudsters to scam consumers around tax deadlines. 

The main aim of these emails is to steal money from your bank account, persuade you to send money, or get enough personal information to sell on to other criminals who perpetrate identify theft.

In summary

HMRC will never ask for your bank account details or personal information via email. If you do receive such an email from HMRC or an email promising a tax rebate, don’t respond. Instead, contact HMRC directly to check whether the email is genuine. 

Fraudsters use a wide variety of approaches to get their hands on your money, gain access to your bank account or your personal details.

Tax rebate scam

One of the most popular approaches is to entice you with a tax rebate which asks you to provide bank account details so HMRC can process the tax repayment.

Almost 75,000 tax-refund scam emails were reported to HMRC between April and September 2014.

The emails promise a tax rebate, and often ask for your name, address, date of birth, bank and credit card details – including passwords and your mother’s maiden name.

If you provide the information, money can be stolen from your bank account and your details could be sold on to criminal gangs.

Tempting as this may be, HMRC will never ask for your bank account details via email so don’t respond. 

Dodgy email attachments

Alternatively, scammers may try to get you to open an attached document containing a virus or malware. 

The most common will advise you that your tax notice has been issued but in reality the attachment contain a virus.

Identity theft

The most direct approach involves asking you to verify your identity by providing a copy of your passport, national insurance number, bank statement, drivers licence, credit card or utility bill. 

You may see a variation of this approach saying that HMRC needs to carry out additional security checks asking for confirmation of bank details or other confidential information.

How do I spot a tax scam?

HMRC will never ask you for your payment or personal details by email, so alarm bells should ring if you are asked for any details in this way. 

If you receive an email from HMRC and you’re unsure if it’s genuine, don't download any attachments, click on any links within the email or respond to it.

If you want to be sure about the legitimacy of the email, read HMRC's phishing email guide which explains how to recognise a phishing attempt from genuine contact. Report any bogus emails to HMRC directly. For more information, read our full guide to how you can spot a phishing scam.

Copycat tax websites

Copycat websites are designed to look official, but can charge you for an otherwise free service, as well as capture your personal data. 

The websites get traffic either via links from phishing emails or by paying for Google advertising targeting key search terms such as ‘tax return’. 

Google is usually quite quick to take these websites down, but it’s worth being aware of them so you don’t pay for a service you could otherwise get for free. 

For more information, read our guide to spotting a copycat website.

What to do if you’re scammed

If you’re worried that you may have been scammed, please read the following information:

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