The UK’s tax office has warned of a new set of scams designed to trick customers claiming tax credits into handing over their personal and financial information.
Currently being phased out in favor of a new Universal Credit system, tax credits can be claimed by low-income households to help them with the cost of living.
However, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned that fraudsters are using a renewal deadline of July 31, along with other tactics, to trick claimants into giving them money or personal information.
“Tax scams come in many forms and we’re urging customers to be alert to the tactics used by fraudsters and never to let yourselves be rushed,” said HMRC director general for customer services, Myrtle Lloyd.
“If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC and asks you to give personal information or urgently transfer money, be on your guard. Search ‘HMRC scams’ advice on Gov.uk to find out how to report scams and help us fight these crimes.”
Victims might receive phishing emails or texts claiming they risk losing out on payments unless they fill in their details or that a direct debit payment hasn’t worked. They may also receive phishing messages promising fictitious tax rebates or bogus grants or support. They could also be told their National Insurance number has been used in fraud.
Some individuals have even received scam phone calls threatening arrest if they don’t pay ‘tax’ that they owe, according to HMRC.
As usual in social engineering attacks, scammers look to create a sense of urgency that rushes the victim into making unwise decisions. Another key element is to piggyback on major events – such as the deadline for switching over from tax credits to Universal Credit, which has been widely publicized in the UK.
According to National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) figures cited by HMRC, the tax office was the third most spoofed government body in 2022, behind the NHS and TV Licensing.
HMRC urged citizens never to click on links or download attachments in unsolicited emails, and to always check on Gov.uk that the contact is a genuine one. For those unsure whether a text may be a scam, they are urged to forward it to 60599, while suspicious emails should be sent to [email protected], and tax scam phone calls should be reported to Gov.uk.
If any money is stolen, victims should contact their bank immediately and report the incident to Action Fraud.