Cyber criminals are unfortunately exploiting the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and taking advantage of taxpayers’ insecurities during this challenging time.
According to Action Fraud, since February 2020, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has identified 21 reports of fraud where Coronavirus was mentioned, with victim losses totalling over £800k.
At M+A Partners, our advice to all of our clients and contacts is that it is vitally important to stay vigilant and mindful of all requests and contacts that you receive when asked for any personal information or are contacted by anyone purporting to be from HMRC.
Fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach to duping people out of significant sums of money as well as personal financial information. Increasingly, some of the fraudulent campaigns in circulation are extremely convincing and persuasive. We urge you to be on your guard at all times when asked to provide financial information, in any form, unless you already know and can identify the people you are dealing with.
A selection of the scams we are seeing follow:
There have been multiple reports about Coronavirus-themed phishing emails, some of which may offer a tax refund ‘to protect against COVID-19’.
An example of the scam is below:
HMRC will never email you regarding a tax refund. If you receive a suspicious email purporting to be from HMRC then these can be forwarded to email@example.com, or to your usual contact at M+A Partners. You should then delete the email without clicking on any links or opening attachments.
Text message scams
HMRC are aware of a text message scam stating that the recipient will be fined £250 for leaving the house more than once in a day. The message asks you to call a 0800 telephone number to appeal.
Do not call the number or reply to the text message. It is a scam.
Unpaid tax scams
There have been reported instances of fraudsters contacting individuals by phone and claiming to be from HMRC, demanding thousands of pounds in supposedly ‘unpaid taxes’ or face a court hearing or distraint proceedings from bailiffs.
If you receive such a call, advise the caller that you will check with your accountant (without naming us) and then hang up.
Please be assured that HMRC will never text, email or phone to ask for bank details, a PIN or passwords.
HMRC advise that to protect yourself you should follow this advice:
- Do not click on links or open emails from senders that you do not already know;
- Be wary of promised returns that sound too good to be true;
- Take your time to make all the checks you need, even if this means turning down an ‘amazing deal’;
- Do not give out personal details (bank details, address, existing insurance/pensions/investment details);
- Seek financial guidance or advice before changing your pension arrangements or making investments;
- Reject offers that come out of the blue; and
- Be aware of adverts on social media channels and paid for/sponsored adverts online.