Millions of people preparing to fill out their self-assessment tax-return forms are being warned to keep their wits about them and look out for con artists.
The taxman says that the upcoming peak in online activity by people filing their forms is a time when scammers often pounce, with increasingly-sophisticated fraud being committed.
In particular, HM Revenue & Customs is often the target for criminals to send phishing emails – emails designed to look as though they are from the taxman but which attempt to convince unwitting recipients to hand over their personal details and bank records.
HMRC is planning to send emails to more than a million people over the next few weeks as the January 31 self-assessment deadline approaches, but it is important that people check the authenticity of any messages they receive before responding.
Emails sent by the taxman will never ask recipients to disclose their addresses, bank details or financial information. There will also never be email attachments or web links.
Another favourite tactic by conmen is to state that the recipient is due a refund, but HMRC would never disclose this kind of information via email.
“Handling the personal details of every taxpayer in the country is a huge responsibility, and the security of this data, especially online, is a top priority for HMRC,” says the organisation’s Jonathan Lloyd White.
“We are committed to customers’ online security, but the methods that fraudsters use to get information are constantly changing so people need to be alert.
“When using our online services I would urge all our customers to be vigilant, and remember that HMRC will never send an email to ask for your personal information or password, or include a link or attachment.”