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Scam texts, emails and phone calls saying they’re from HMRC are on the rise. And it can be increasingly difficult to tell the real from the fake.

Scammers know when tax is going to be on people’s minds. Self assessment tax return season is always a time to be alert: but the pandemic has given scammers a field day. Emails mimicking HMRC, with invitations to apply for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant, and texts offering refunds or funding because of lockdown are among those in circulation. In the case of SEISS, it can be even more confusing, because HMRC has been contacting some claimants to carry out pre-verification checks. But if this is the case, it should notify you by letter in advance.

Sometimes there are basic clues to note. Bad grammar. Spelling mistakes. And HMRC isn’t likely to start its emails ‘Hello’ or end with a chatty ‘Thank you for your cooperation’. It won’t use WhatsApp or email to tell you about a tax refund.

Tip: Don’t click
Most scams invite you to open an attachment or click on a link. Don’t. They’re likely to take you to a misleading ‘phishing’ website, to get you to enter personal details that can then be exploited, or expose you to malicious software.

If in any doubt about contact that seems to be from HMRC, please do talk to us. We are always able to point you towards HMRC’s ‘live’ list of issues, where it really is contacting the public.