Don't Get Scammed! How To Spot A Fake HMRC Phone Call
In the past couple of years or so, we have been made aware of a number of clients who have received telephone calls from persons purporting to be from the tax authorities. In a number of cases, they have been threatened with prison if they don’t make payments being requested there and then. According to a report in Which? Magazine in January 2021, HMRC received reports of over 915,000 reports of HMRC scams in 2020, with over half of them offering tax rebates. The report also goes on to say that over 340,000 of those are related to phone scams, a frightening statistic.
So, should you receive a call from someone saying they are from HMRC either asking for payment or advising that you are due a refund, what should you do?
Firstly, you should take a moment to listen to the tone of the caller. HMRC advise that they would never leave a voicemail threatening legal action or call threatening to arrest you. If you are unlucky enough to be the recipient of either, delete the voicemail or hang up the call as they are clear signs that the call is a scam.
Secondly, think about whether you have been advised by us, or are expecting a refund or grant as these are areas of interest that scammers often use to engage you in a call. Even if we have, HMRC wouldn’t contact you to discuss the matter in this way so you can assume it is a bogus call and hang up.
Thirdly, a common tactic the caller will try is to rush you to make a snap decision or payment, with the aim to make you feel flustered and confused so that you engage with them. This is another clear sign that they are trying to scam you and you should look to disengage from the call.
Lastly, if they request personal bank details from you in order to pay a refund or ask you to make a payment by bank transfer, this is a sign that the call is fake and you should disengage and hang up. HMRC would never request this sort of information on the telephone. This is something that is always done securely through their online service.
HMRC have made it clear that whilst they may make a telephone call to you to chase debts, they will never request you to make a payment at that time if you are not comfortable in doing so. The important thing is to remain vigilant and, if in doubt at all whether the call you receive is genuinely from HMRC, advise them that you need to confirm the position with your accountant prior to being in a position to make any further payment, and that you will arrange any payment due in your own time once you are satisfied that the liability is clear and confirmed.
If in doubt, please speak to either the partner you usually deal with or a member of our tax team who will be glad to assist.