Whilst contractors working for umbrella companies will have had their tax automatically calculated and paid, those who file self assessment returns should be on the lookout for a new e-mail scam, according to a warning issued recently by HMRC.
There has been an increase in the use of phoney emails disguised as official HMRC communications in recent weeks, this time advising people that they are entitled to a tax rebate. But the first thing to note is that the real HMRC would never use email to inform taxpayers of matters such as this.
The fake emails contain a range of ruses aimed at getting people to divulge sensitive personal information. One invites individuals to visit a webpage to verify their banking details; another claims that lottery winnings, seized goods or inheritance money will be paid as soon as the necessary personal banking data is supplied. Yet another invites people to download an attachment which ostensibly requests a refund through PayPal. In addition, HMRC warns, several such scams have emerged via SMS – recipients of these messages are asked to call a number in order to “claim” their “refunds.”
All are phishing exercises and should be avoided at all costs. If anyone receives such a message, HMRC requests that they forward it immediately to firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete it without delay.
The timing isn’t accidental – the self assessment system inevitably results in many freelancers completing their returns at the eleventh hour (or later). Scammers tend to exploit flurries in activity to provide a convenient cloak for their nefarious deeds. Unsuspecting freelancers may be expecting all manner of communications and reminders from HMRC at this time of year, rendering fake tax-related emails more plausible.
HMRC will never contact you via email to request personal information or update you on personal tax matters.