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Tax scams target self-assessment deadline

Have you been exposed to a scam? Our new research shows over half of you have. So with tax return deadlines looming, it’s worth brushing up on how to steer clear…

Be on high alert for an increase in tax scams around the self-assessment deadline on Saturday 31 January.

Results from our new research found that 54% of consumers had been personally exposed to a scam in the last two years, or have a friend or family member who has.

And worst of all, of those who had lost money through a scam, the average amount taken was more than £500! Ouch.

Our research found one in six of you has completed a HM Revenue & Customs online self-assessment in the last two years. With two thirds of those who had used the site agreeing that it is easy to use and informative – it’s not often said, but good work HMRC!

Increase in tax phishing scams

The Trading Standards National eCrime Team has warned of an increase in tax phishing scams looking to get hold of your personal and financial data in the run up to the self-assessment deadline. The eCrime team warned:

‘The first quarter of any new year is the silly season for fraudulent tax phishing emails, appearing to come from HM Revenues & Customs, as a number of important tax deadlines draw near.’

HMRC is a popular target for scammers with our research showing that one in four of you have received phishing emails purporting to be from HMRC.

Look out for copycat websites

Another scammer technique to look out for is copycat websites – sites designed to look official, but that charge you for an otherwise free service.

These websites get their hands on traffic by paying for search engine advertising that targets key search terms such as ‘tax return’. Google is pretty quick to get these removed from the search results – but it is definitely worthwhile keeping your eye out for them. Also, when using a government site, its worth looking for .gov in the URL just to be sure it’s not a copycat site.

How do I avoid getting scammed?

In January 2015, we carried out a poll to find out the most popular methods to avoid being scammed by rogue emails. The tactic that came out top is to check the email address of the sender (41% of respondents), closely followed by checking the spelling & grammar (35%). Another interesting method is to Google the company logo – 21% of respondents used this tactic.

According to Experts from the National eCrime Team you must remain vigilant as scammers keep upping their game.

‘Emails […] not only look official but often have official looking government email addresses which can make them harder to spot.’

‘Sometimes they are even signed off with the name or signature of a genuine HMRC employee for added authenticity.’

HMRC will never ask you for your payment or personal details by email, so alarm bells should ring if you are asked for details in this way.

There are rules to remember if you are ever unsure of the authenticity of an email. If you’re unsure, don’t click on any email links and contact the company directly to be on the safe side.

Have you been caught out by a scam? What rules do you follow to avoid getting duped?


The best advice you can give anyone looking to fill in a tax return online is to use http://www.gov.uk

It really is just that simple.

I endorse William’s recommendation. While it’s worth looking for .gov in the URL, even better is to look for GOV.UK [in capital letters] in the first line of the search engine results. I am pleased to see that this is now in virtually universal use for official H M Government services. Better still, as William says, is to start by putting just GOV.UK in the browser window and navigating from there. It really is incredibly easy, and safe.

The online scams are getting very popular as well. I avoid getting scammed by using the new site ebuyersreviewed.