HMRC and Action Fraud have warned of high numbers of springtime scams. These tend to target those who may be less experienced with the tax system, such as the young and the elderly.

Between March and May 2018, HMRC received nearly 250,000 reports of phishing, and requested to have more than 6,000 websites taken down.

An Ofcom Communications Market Report in 2018 found that the majority of text and email scams were sent via smartphone. It noted that, at this time, 95% of 16-24-year olds and 51% of those aged 55 and over owned a smartphone.

The following pointers have been issued by HMRC to help you to work out if you are being targeted by a scam:

  1. Have you been asked to provide confidential information?
  2. Genuine organisations, such as HMRC, will not contact you to ask for your PIN, bank details, or even a password.

  3. Is it a text message refund which sounds too good to be true?
  4. HMRC will never inform you of a refund via e-mail or SMS.

  5. Protect your confidential information!
  6. Do not give out private details, respond to suspicious text messages, download attachments from an unknown sender, or click links within emails if you are unsure of the origin or nature.

  7. Report your concerns!
  8. Ensure you forward emails and information regarding any suspicious calls or emails from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk. Forward suspicious text messages to 60599.

If you have suffered a financial loss as a result of these scams, it is recommended that you contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Alternatively, use their online fraud reporting tool for further help.

HMRC have also released a handy guide to help you check if correspondence is genuinely from them.

Angela MacDonald, Head of Customer Services at HMRC, has said:

‘We are determined to protect honest people from these fraudsters who will stop at nothing to make their phishing scams appear legitimate.

‘HMRC is currently shutting down hundreds of phishing sites a month. If you receive one of these emails or texts, don’t respond and report it to HMRC so that more online criminals are stopped in their tracks.’