As the 31 July deadline approaches for consumers to renew their tax credits, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is warning taxpayers to watch out for fake ‘phishing’ emails sent out by fraudsters.
Watch out for tax phishing scams
The scam email often begins with a sentence such as ‘we have reviewed your tax return and our calculations of your last year’s accounts show a tax refund of XXXX is due.’
According to the HMRC website, the email provides a click-through link to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is asked to provide their credit or debit card details. Victims risk having their bank accounts emptied and their personal details sold on to other organised criminal gangs.
HMRC has reported that since the beginning of April, when the first tax credits renewals forms were sent out to claimants, more than 46,000 phishing emails have been reported by customers. During the same period, HMRC helped shut down more than 150 scam websites.
Joan Wood, director of HMRC Online and Digital, said: ‘We currently only ever contact customers who are due a tax refund in writing by post. We don’t use telephone calls, emails or external companies in these circumstances. If anyone receives an email claiming to be from HMRC, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org before deleting it permanently.’
Lee Healey, managing director of benefits entitlement experts IncomeMAX, commented: ‘We’ve had lots of enquiries from customers that have received these fake HMRC emails. It is a particularly mean scam as there are lots of people that would welcome a tax refund during these tough economic times, especially those in receipt of tax credits.’
- For more details on avoiding online scams, read the Which? guide to Protecting your online ID.
Tax credit deadline on 31 July
Fear of scams should not put you off from claiming the tax credits to which you’re entitled – you just need to use the pack that is sent out by post by HMRC. Encouraging claimants to act as soon as they receive a renewal pack, HMRC’s Director of Benefits and Credits, Steve Lamey, said: ‘The sooner you renew, the sooner we can check your payments are right so that you won’t have to pay money back. It’s simple – if you don’t renew your claim before 31 July, your payments may stop.’
If there have been any changes in your circumstances that you haven’t already reported, you must let HMRC know. These could be about working hours, childcare costs or pay.
Claimants are also urged to take care when renewing tax credits as errors could mean you receive less money than you are entitled to. If you need help, the tax credits helpline number is 0845 300 3900. Help on tax credit renewals can also be found on the HMRC tax credits website.
Lee Healey added: ‘It’s so important to renew your tax credits correctly and on time. Remember to complete the renewal paperwork accurately and always check the resulting award notices carefully to ensure they are correct. If HMRC used estimated income from the previous tax year, make sure this tallies with what your actual taxable income was. Lastly, always seek advice if you receive notice of an underpayment or overpayment you weren’t expecting.’
- For more details on claiming, read the Which? guide to Tax credits.
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