/ Home & Energy, Money

Update: We busted another council tax refund scam

scam

You’ve received a text or email from ‘HMRC’ telling you you’re due a tax refund. It may look legitimate, but chances are it’s a scam.

When my colleague, Mark Harrison, received a text from ‘govuk’ telling him he’d been overcharged council tax for the last two years and was owed a £482.50 refund his suspicions were aroused.

Mark explained that:

‘On first glance I thought the message could be genuine – April’s a period of tax changes, and to be honest I wanted to think I was owed all this money!

Scam text

‘It was when I saw the web address that I smelled a rat – it didn’t add up that HMRC would use a .co.uk and not a .gov.uk website. I clicked the link, and at a glance it looked completely legitimate, especially with the HM Revenue and Customs logo in the corner.

HMRC Refund Form

‘My fears were confirmed when they asked for far more details than they needed for a refund  – like the CVC number from my debit card, and there were also spelling mistakes on the website.’

A little digging revealed that this dodgy site had been set up earlier that day. So we got straight on to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) who confirmed it was a scam.

Update: 19 October 2016

Which? has busted another tax refund scam and reported the scam site to HMRC for it to be taken down.

The scam presents itself with three steps to swipe your details. First an email informing the recipient that they are due a tax refund. To access said tax refund the recipient of the email must click on the ‘refund’ link.

HMRC scam

The link takes you through to a what appears to be a security requirement page which appears to gather your email account password before sending you to the mocked up scam ‘HMRC’ phishing page.

Security details scam

Spotting a tax scam

HMRC told us that council issues are handled by each council itself and not centrally by HMRC. So if you are contacted by anyone purporting to be from HMRC about your council tax, you should smell a rat.

The offending website has now been taken down. But spotting a scam like this isn’t always easy.

HMRC told us that a text or email from them will never:

  • Notify you of a tax rebate.
  • Offer you a repayment.
  • Request personal information such as full address, postcode, Unique Taxpayer Reference or bank account details.
  • Give a non HMRC personal email address to send a response to.
  • Ask for financial information such as specific figures or tax computations, unless you’ve given prior consent and you’ve formally accepted the risks.
  • Send attachments, unless you’ve given prior consent and you’ve formally accepted the risks.
  • Provide a link to a secure log-in page or a form asking for information – instead you’ll be asked to log on to your online account.

Reporting a suspicious text or email

Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing if there are any more sites like this one. So if you receive a text or email linking to a suspicious looking site then please let us know.

HMRC regularly highlights their own guidance on avoiding these scams through social media, their website and other communications channels. But you can also assist their investigations by sending the details of fraudulent text messages via email to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk.

If you ‘re worried that you’ve shared personal information with a scammer then our guide on identity theft can take you through the next steps for taking action, or you can follow our advice on what to do if you’ve given a fraudster your bank details.

Comments
Helen says:
28 October 2016

I’ve just received this very scam email about a Council Tax refund – my suspicions were raised as I wondered why HMRC and not the local council had emailed me. I’ve reported it. Shame it’s doing the rounds again, it does look genuine

Helen, it’s good that you’ve reported it. Did you send it through to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk? It’s really important to remember that HMRC do not send emails about any tax refunds. If you’d like us to report this to then please send us the details to conversation.comments@which.co.uk

Tania Munro says:
10 November 2016

Just received this scam today, so it has just changed email address. I did not click on the link, as I know HMRC do not deal with council tax refunds. BEWARE

At this moment we have to refund you 221.94 GBP council tax for the last two years.

Click HERE to submit the request.

Note : A request can be delayed, for submitting invalid records or applying after deadline.

HMRC
Room 2C/23
110 Parliament Street
London
SW1A 2BZz
At this moment we have to refund you 221.94 GBP council tax for the last two years.

Click HERE to submit the request.

Note : A request can be delayed, for submitting invalid records or applying after deadline.

HMRC
Room 2C/23
110 Parliament Street
London
SW1A 2BZz

Apart from the facts that the HMRC do not deal with Council Tax and never notify tax refunds via e-mails, there are at least two further give-aways in this scam e-mail :

1. An e-mail without a ‘£’ sign in front of the money amount indicates it was created where that key is not available on the keyboard.

2. The HMRC might well have rooms in a government [possibly Treasury] building in Parliament Street but no operational tax arrangements are dealt with there and personal taxation is handled at major regional centres.

I just received one of these scam emails today, so they’re still circulating. I was immediately suspicious, but checking the postal address they gave was the giveaway – they wrote “centre” as “center”.

Miriama says:
24 October 2017

Hi mi name Miriama.

I need an application for termination of health insurance.
Thank you very much.

To help you Miriama you need to supply details – British citizen ? Private company ?-termination of employment while still paying private health insurance ? it just goes on Could you be more precise and detailed ?

Hi Miriama, the best way to cancel health insurance would be to contact your provider directly. If you’re having issues cancelling your policy have a look at our consumer rights advice – http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/l/private-healthcare

I hope this helps.