HMRC is preparing to issue emails and text messages to people filing in their self-assessment, asking them to be on guard after almost 800,000 tax-related scams were reported in the last year.
Fraudsters use the self-assessment as a way to try and steal money or personal information from individuals.
In the last 12 months, HMRC has responded to 797,010 referrals of suspicious emails or messages from the public. Of these, it received nearly 360,000 bogus tax rebate referrals.
Reports of phone scams have gone up by a fifth (21%) in the past year, totalling 327,044. Meanwhile, 8,561 malicious websites were taken down.
HMRC said it has worked with the telecoms industry and Ofcom to remove more than 1,282 phone numbers being used to commit the phone scams.
With the self-assessment deadline approaching (31 January 2022), HMRC is sending out more than four million emails and text messages directing self-employed people to guidance and support about filing their taxes.
Mrytle Lloyd, director-general for customer services at HMRC, said: “Never let yourself be rushed. If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard.
“HMRC will also never ring up threatening arrest. Only criminals do that.
“Scams come in many forms. Some threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion, others offer a tax rebate.
“Contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so if you are in any doubt whether the email, phone call or text is genuine, you can check the ‘HMRC scams’ advice on gov.uk and find out how to report them to us.”
Glenn Collins, head of UK tax policy for accountancy trade body, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, also urged the self-employed to be “vigilant.”
He said: “As the self-assessment tax deadline looms, it’s important for people to be extra vigilant of all communications that come through from HMRC and the links embedded within these emails and messages.
“The key things to look out for include reviewing email sender addresses and setting up an additional security layer for any online payments sent through to HMRC, thus ensuring extra protection provided by the payee’s bank (for example, bank account names and details are checked to ensure they match before a payment is processed).
“Anyone posing as HMRC and rushing an individual into paying should be red-flagged immediately and reported to HMRC.”