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It’s that time of year again – self-assessment tax returns are due by 31st January.  This can be a stressful time for the 12 million people who submit self-assessment returns in the UK.  It’s also a prime opportunity for fraudsters to take advantage and launch scams. As the deadline approaches, be extra vigilant against tax scams to avoid becoming a victim. 

Common Self-Assessment Scam Tactics 

Fraudsters employ various tactics to try and steal your money or personal information. Some of the most common HMRC and self-assessment scams to watch out for include: 

  • Phishing emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC asking you to provide personal or financial information or click on links to “update” your tax return details. These are fakes trying to harvest data. 
  • Calls from someone claiming to be from HMRC saying you owe tax and must make an immediate payment. They may threaten legal action or arrest if you don’t comply. HMRC would only ever call you if you have an outstanding debt. 
  • Fake HMRC letters, texts or emails with links redirecting you to cloned websites to steal your log-in details. 
  • Offers of fake tax refunds or rebates out of the blue. You have to pay an “admin fee” to get the refund. 
  • People posing as HMRC agents or tax advisors who offer to complete your return for an upfront fee then disappear or file incorrectly. 

How to Spot and Avoid Scams 

Here are some tips to avoid falling victim to a self-assessment or HMRC scam: 

  • Never disclose personal or payment information unless you initiate contact and are sure it’s HMRC. 
  • Verify the identity of anyone who contacts you by calling HMRC directly. 
  • Check for spelling mistakes, discrepancies, or odd email addresses in written communications. 
  • Know that HMRC would never text or email a link to your online account. Ignore such requests. 
  • Don’t click on links or attachments from unknown sources which could download malware. 
  • Never make payments directly to individuals claiming to be from HMRC. 
  • Use HMRC’s online services yourself to check tax records and update details. 
  • Beware of offers of tax rebates out of the blue or people offering to handle your tax return for you in exchange for money. 

Take Action if You’re Targeted 

If you receive any suspicious contact about your tax return, end communication immediately, and contact HMRC immediately to report it. You can also report scams anonymously to Crimestoppers online or by calling 0800 555 111. The sooner a scam is identified, the quicker authorities can work to protect other taxpayers. 

Don’t panic if you’ve fallen victim to a scam. If you’ve made any payments or lost any money, call HMRC and your bank to report along with reporting the crime to Police Scotland via 101. The sooner you act, the more chance there is to recover lost money and compromised information. 

Stay Vigilant Year-Round 

While scams may rise around self-assessment time, fraudsters target people all year round. Always be cautious when dealing with sensitive personal and financial information. Get to know the warning signs and adopt good practices like using strong passwords, ensuring you are using 2-Step-Verification and keeping software up to date. This will help you avoid compromising situations beyond just the January rush.