HMRC has issued an urgent warning to millions of Brits as tax credits renewal season sparks a new scam surge.
New figures released show that in the past 12 months up to April 30, HMRC had received more than one million referrals of suspicious activity from the public.
Financial scams have been on the rise in the past year amid the coronavirus pandemic and fraudsters are showing no signs of slowing down.
Scams always surge during times when fraudsters know that people will have heard from the taxman, so are more likely to be taken in. It means people are particularly vulnerable in June and July when tax credits are renewed.
There are some common approaches. People might get a text, email or phone call out of the blue claiming to be from the taxman – or you may be contacted over WhatsApp.
Almost half of these scams claim to be offering a tax rebate, and ask for personal details. They say this is so unsuspecting victims can receive the money, whereas in reality it’s so they can clear out people’s bank account.
Others demand payment, either in cash or in vouchers, claiming underpaid tax and threatening serious trouble if victims don’t make up the shortfall.
Sarah Coles, a personal finance analyst a Hargreaves Lansdown said: “Fraudsters hit us with over a million tax scams in the past year, and they’re poised to cash in on tax credit renewal season too.
“HMRC has issued a warning that as renewal packs hit the doormat, scammers will try to sneak through our defences on the back of them.”
She added: “Don’t let the scammers put you off actually completing your renewal and letting HMRC know about any changes in your circumstances.
“It’s the only way to avoid missing out on any money due to you, and avoiding the nightmare of overpayments and having to pay them back.
“You don’t have to declare furlough (and the resultant drop in working hours) though, because the government will assume you’re working your normal hours until the scheme closes.”
HMRC will never ask for personal details or payment over the phone. HMRC has published a list of reasons why they may get in touch online.