Cybercriminals are using increasingly sophisticated methods to scam people into handing over their personal and bank details. According to the Citizens Advice Bureau around four million people are scammed each year in the UK. The scary thing is, this number is on the rise.

From text messages to phishing emails here is what you need to know to protect yourself from scammers.

Most common HMRC scams

Man answering his mobile phone with uncertainty

Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in the number of HMRC scams doing the rounds. They tend to come in the form of a phishing email, letter, text message and more recently, phone calls.

Hundreds of people have reported that they have received an automated phone call supposedly from HMRC stating that they are under investigation for non-payment of tax. In the call, they are directed to press number 1 on the keypad to direct themselves to an advisor who can take instant payment via a credit card.

Another recent example is an email that states the person is eligible for a tax refund. They are asked to click on a link within the email to enter their bank details to claim the refund.

In response to the increase in the number of scams, HMRC has created a dedicated page on their website that details the scams that they are aware of. You can access this page on their website here.

How to spot an HMRC scam

Hacker in a black room with a bright computer screen sending scams

We’ve got to say, at times it can be really difficult to tell the difference between legitimate correspondence and fake correspondence. Cybercriminals put a lot of effort and resources into making their communication look authentic. To them, it’s a business and they make their money by stealing yours.

However, there are some things that typically give it away. These include:

  • Your name is spelled incorrectly
  • There are lots of spelling mistakes throughout the message
  • The email address looks incorrect
  • The correspondence is asking you to make payment immediately

What to do if you are sent a scam

Spotting a fraud or scam with a sign on a computer reading 'fraud alert'

If you think you have received fake correspondence from HMRC, the first thing you should do is contact them directly to verify that it has come from them. If they confirm it hasn’t you need to destroy it or permanently delete it.

If you receive a call that you suspect is a scam do not hand over any personal or bank details. Hang up and inform HMRC immediately. You can pass on details of the scam to HMRC by emailing them on [email protected].

If you receive an email, do not click on any links contained in the email as this could install spyware on your computer that can steal your personal details and passwords.

To ensure your computer, laptop or mobile device are protected from attacks from viruses and spyware you need to install anti-virus software. There are numerous options available on the market ranging in costs. If you’re a contractor operating via your own limited company don’t forget that the cost of this software is classed as a legitimate business expense. So, by purchasing it through your limited company you’re not only protecting your business but also reducing your corporation tax bill.

As a team of proactive contractor accountants, our clients know their accounts and tax affairs are safe in our hands. Give us a call today on 01962 867550 to see how we can help you.