UK Tax Authority Warns Tax Credit Claimants of New Fraud Techniques

Published: 01 June 2023

Data StealingFraudsters have developed new methods of stealing money and personal data online, U.K. tax authority warned. (Photo: Blogtrepreneur, Flickr, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

The United Kingdom's tax, payments, and customs authority has issued an alert to tax credit claimants regarding the latest methods employed by fraudsters to deceive individuals and extract money or personal information.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) cautioned 1.5 million tax credit clients on Tuesday, highlighting that fraudsters exploit deadlines, such as the upcoming tax credit renewal deadline on July 31, to target both the victims and the department itself.

These scammers employ tactics that mimic government communications, making them appear authentic.

According to HMRC, typical scams involve emails or texts claiming that individuals' details are outdated, posing a risk of losing out on rightful payments. The fraudsters send messages asserting that direct debit payments have failed to go through, offer false tax rebates, grants, or support, and even resort to phone calls where they threaten victims with arrest if they fail to pay fictitious tax debts. In some cases, they falsely claim that the victim's national insurance number has been involved in fraudulent activities.

In response, HMRC emphasized that scam messages can be highly convincing, putting pressure on individuals to make hasty decisions. They reiterated that HMRC never initiates unsolicited calls with threats or requests for money transfers.

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC's Director General for Customer Services, stressed the importance of remaining vigilant against various forms of tax scams and urged customers not to succumb to rushed decisions.

The U.K. National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) reported that in 2022, HMRC ranked as the third most targeted government body for spoofing, trailing behind the National Health Service and TV Licensing.

Last year, the NCSC's Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) received 6.4 million tips about potential fraud cases, resulting in the removal of 67,300 scam URLs.

In the period up to April 2023, HMRC received 170,234 public referrals of suspicious contacts, out of which 68,437 involved fake tax refund claims.