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HMRC records huge increase in scam attempts

27 Apr 2021

Last year saw a major increase in the public reporting suspicious contact to HMRC.

Figures from the tax authority show HMRC received 975,420 referrals of suspicious contact in 2020, a 71.3% increase from the 569,140 reported the previous year.

Over half of these referrals relate to bogus tax rebates. However, there has also been a huge 1,350% increase in COVID-19 relief scams, as criminals target COVID-19 furlough scheme recipients and businesses.

HMRC has detected almost 450 COVID-19 related financial scams since March 2020, most were sent by text message seeking to tempt people to respond with information about furlough payment claims.

The HMRC figures show an increase of fraudulent activity across all three sectors - emails, SMS, and phone which increased by 51%.

An HMRC spokesperson said: 'If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you owe tax and face arrest, are due a tax refund, asking you to transfer money or for bank or other personal details, it might be a scam. Check for our scams checklist and to find out how to report tax scams.

'Criminals are taking advantage of the package of measures announced by the government to support people and businesses affected by coronavirus. Scammers text, email or phone taxpayers offering spurious financial support or tax refunds, sometimes threatening them with arrest if they don't immediately pay fictitious tax owed.'