People claiming tax credits are being targeted by fraudsters via scam emails and text messages ahead of the 31 July renewal deadline, the taxman has warned.
Nearly 51,000 scam ‘phishing’ emails were reported to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) between April and July 2014, which is double the number reported during the same period in the previous year.
Some scam messages claim to be from a ‘tax credit office agent’, offering a tax refund or including a link to a fake version of the official gov.uk website.
Stay one step ahead of the scammers and use our guide to avoid the latest tax scams.
Tax credit renewal email
The scam messages try to trick people into divulging personal information such as bank details and passwords. The fraudsters then try to take money from the individual’s account or sell their identities to other criminals.
HMRC will never use texts or emails to tell someone about a tax rebate or penalty or ask for personal or payment information.
Shutting down scam websites
Which? research, carried out earlier this year ahead of the online tax return deadline, found that 40% of people had received a phishing email purporting to be from HMRC in the last two years.
Despite almost nine in 10 people feeling confident in their ability to spot a scam email, the sheer volume of fake correspondence has led to some people being caught out.
Last year, HMRC worked with other bodies to shut down 8,877 scam websites, marking a 500% increase compared with 2013.
Fraudsters methods ‘constantly changing’
Director general of benefits and credits at HMRC Nick Lodge said: ‘HMRC will never ask people to disclose personal information by email.
‘We have cracked down on phishing emails and scam websites but the fraudsters’ methods are constantly changing, so people must remain vigilant’.
He added: ‘The only way to renew tax credits and report changes online is on gov.uk.’