Can you spot the fake HMRC email?
Published 12 April 2019
We show you an easy way to sort the fact from fiction when it comes to messages about your tax refund.
Are you one of the people that’s eagerly awaiting some kind of contact from HMRC?
The tax year ended on 5th April, and if you’ve been paying too much tax over the year for any reason, you might be about to come into some money my friend.
This gives scammers a perfect opportunity to try to take advantage of unsuspecting people who they know are waiting to hear about their tax refunds.
I’ve received an email from HMRC about a tax refund, how do I know if it’s real?
If you ever receive an email that you’re not sure about, we’re going to show you a really easy way to tell if it’s fake.
The email below is claiming to be from HMRC, do you think it’s the real deal or part of a scam?
Made your mind up yet? Here’s a foolproof way of telling the difference.
HMRC will never send you an email about a tax refund. This is what’s known as phishing and it’s a type of fraud.
The scammer copies an email from a familiar website, or a company that they think you’ll trust. They then use this ‘friendly face’ to persuade you that there’s a reason why you need to give them your details.
It may look convincing, but the fraudsters will use emails like this to get hold of your sensitive info, like your credit card details and usernames.
If you start to look closely at the email, there are other signs that it isn’t genuine:
• The sender’s email address or display name looks shifty – A genuine company wouldn’t use an email address full of random characters. It could have been spoofed, which means it’s been made to look like it’s from someone else.
• They’ve called you ‘customer’ and not addressed you personally – This might suggest that the email’s been sent to lots of people – they have no idea what your name is! If it’s for your eyes only a business would at least use your first name.
• Spelling mistakes and bad grammar – A genuine company would make sure that someone checks over messages before they’re sent out to customers. If an email is full of spelling errors and doesn’t make sense, it’s unlikely that it will have come from a professional company.
If you ever get an email that looks like this HMRC will investigate it, so forward it to [email protected]. After you’ve done that, delete the message.
HMRC have sent me a text about my tax refund, is this genuine?
As with emails, the HMRC will never send you a text about a tax refund. They will never ask you for any personal or financial information when they send you a text.
If you get any texts that look like the one above, they are big fat fakes. Don’t risk opening any links in the message, because unfortunately there won’t be 265.84GBP waiting for you!
When a fraudster uses a text to try and convince you to fill in your details, it’s called smishing (a combination of ‘SMS’ and ‘phishing’).
Send any text messages you get about tax refunds to 60599 (network charges apply) or email [email protected], then delete them.
I’ve received an automated phone call from HMRC saying that a lawsuit is being filed against me. I hung up because I thought it was a scam, is it?
If you’ve had a phone call that sounds a bit like this don’t worry, it’s not genuine.
Vishing, or voice phishing, is another way that scammers will try to convince you that they need your details.
They pretend to be authority figures, like your bank or the police, to pressure you into handing over your important info.
If the caller can’t verify who they are and you don’t feel comfortable, hang up.
Although HMRC might call you, genuine HMRC staff would be happy for you to end the call and ring them back on a known number if you’re suspicious. Scam callers will try to keep you on the phone for as long as possible.
A HMRC spokesperson said, “We have a well-known brand, which criminals abuse to add credibility to their scams.
These scams often involve people receiving a call out of the blue and being told that HMRC is investigating them. If you can’t verify the identity of the caller, we recommend that you do not speak to them.”
Fraudsters often target vulnerable people and the elderly, so it’s a good idea to make sure that your family and friends know about these kind of scams.
I think I’ve been scammed! What should I do?
Report it to Action Fraud straight away. If you think that a family or friend may have been a victim of a scam you can also report it to Action Fraud on their behalf.
So how will I be told that I’m getting a tax refund?
If you’re waiting to hear back from HMRC about your tax refund, you will hear from them in a tax calculation letter - not via phone, text, email or carrier pigeon!
So, if you get an email, text or phone call claiming to be the HMRC, do NOT:
• Click on any links
• Open any attachments
• Give out any personal or payment info
• Continue with a conversation if the caller won’t verify themselves