/ Scams

Self Assessment tax returns: scammers posing as HMRC

With the deadline for self assessment tax filing approaching on 31 January 2021, HMRC has issued a scam warning. Here’s what you need to be wary of.

With many small businesses and the self-employed heavily impacted during the pandemic, HMRC has issued a warning about scammers posing as the department.

It’s said that 846,000 suspicious communications have been referred to them in the past 12 months. Nearly 500,000 of these were related to members of the public being offered bogus tax refunds. 

We’ve seen a number of these examples here on Which? Conversation this year.

As a Premier Account Manager at Which? Trusted Traders, I’d like to ensure that all our traders are well aware of the dangers these scams can pose.

It’s not just cash they’re after…

Typically when you think of fraud, losing cash directly springs to mind, but many scammers posing as HMRC are also after your personal information, which can then later lead to your bank accounts being compromised.

This can then facilitate the opening of fraudulent credit accounts or selling personal details on to criminal gangs.

For example, Which? recently spoke with a self employed woman who had a tax refund of £7,000 fraudulently claimed in her name after scammers filed a bogus claim using her details obtained from a malicious communication

It’s best to take any communication offering unexpected money with a healthy dose of caution. 

As always, check over any communication regarding your tax return carefully, and refer to our guide on how to spot HMRC phone, text and email scams.

If you think you may have given personal details to scammers, alert your bank immediately. We also have a guide on how you can get your money back.

Sound too good to be true?

It’s an old cliche, but a valid one: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Scammers will no doubt continue to target self assessment tax filers increasingly as the deadline approaches in January.

You can report them to HMRC by forwarding copies to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and texts to 60599. 

Knowing what to look out for and examples of malicious communications can help us all avoid the devastating impacts. If a message from ‘HMRC’ does not seem right or an unsolicited call gives you a bad gut feeling, listen to your instincts and do some in-depth research into who is at the other end. 

Have you received suspicious communications claiming to be from HMRC? How did you deal with it?

Let us know in the comments and help prevent others becoming the next victim.


Really interesting! It’s so easy to get caught out by scammers and this information is so valuable to help us all avoid them, thank you

Really insightful and useful. Thanks for sharing.

I received one of the standard “you’re due a refund” scams. I just laughed, as I knew it was rubbish. Flagged to friends that it was going round again.

Amanda Wells says:
10 December 2020

I believe the self- assessment deadline is January 31st not 21st?

I received an email this morning from Amazon to claim a £50 voucher .I don’t have an account with them they asked for all my details including my bank card details so I just deleted it straight away.

Diana Worth says:
10 December 2020

I succumbed to an email purporting to have come from Royal Mail. It said it could not deliver a large letter from HMRC Courts and Tribunals! They said they wanted £1.99 for postage due and asked for my card number and account number, which I foolishly gave them . Two minutes later, when I came to my senses and looked it up, it was obviously a scam. I got straight through to my bank and stopped my card, and moved most of my money elsewhere. Though the card will not work, they still have sort code and account numbers and the TSB could not offer advice on the subsequent safety of the account.

paul hartley says:
10 December 2020

text from ‘HMRC’ telling me i had a tax rebate of £281. A relatively small amount so maybe genuine!…not! Wanted my bank details.

I had an email saying the same to me. The Taxman made mistake in calculations and found to have charged me £230.50, thus this money will be refunded to your account.
I didn’t reply as I don’t do self-assessment anymore and my tax is ducted by my Company pension and adjusted with my Tax Code.
Two days later, the same type of email but in this, the money went up to £560.00. I just put it in junk Box.
So far I haven’t heard anymore.

David Hopton says:
10 December 2020

Received a legal letter from a third party who claim they were acting on behalf of the HMRC looking to recover unpaid tax.
I spoke to HMRC who said they did contract out some outstanding amounts, would not confirm if this company was one of them. After offering to pay the HMRC. direct they refused, tried to contact the third part on numerous occasions without any success. Even though I had spoken to HMRC regarding the matter on 2 separate occasions they agreed with my position. The third party letter threatened balif action so I paid it. Felt the HMRC were unhelpful and left me feeling exposed to a company I still don’t know if this was a genuine issue.
This was about a month ago and I have heard nothing else!

Ramesh Nehru says:
10 December 2020

HMRC will never email you advising of a tax refund.
The email address from which it was sent had no connection with HMRC.
If HMRC is refunding amounts on a fake self-assessment return, it shows HMRC’s ignorance and their investigation is not there. HMRC does not query Self-assessment returns and takes it for granted the amounts claimed.

David Keith says:
10 December 2020

I was contacted by somebody in October 2020 saying they were from HMRC and that a court judgement had been made against me and to contact them immediately or would be arrested.
I contacted HMRC myself and reported this to them even giving them the telephone number they used 02039397498 they acknowledged my concerns, but today I received another call on 02082718978 saying the same thing
It seems obvious that HMRC are not taking these fraudulent phone calls seriously?

I just say when they ask me by name I say sorry you have got through to fraud squad or the police working on behalf of the said name they soon cut you off,and nine cases out of ten if you dial 1471 the operator will tell you to hang up.

Roland says:
10 December 2020

good idea I just say the second word is OFF pick the first yourself

Roland says:
10 December 2020

Scams are the price we are paying for the obsession with using the internet for our communications
and transfering money. I would never use Paypal for money transfers. I use my CREDIT card and my
bank has always sorted out the few queries I have had. I use CASH or CHEQUES wherever possible.
The internet will NEVER be free of scams but CASH and CROSSED CHEQUES are much safer. We have Freedom of Choice in this country ( Magna Carta) USE IT I do my best to .

paul hartley says:
11 December 2020

What use are bank details, ie sort code and account number? Anyone can see those on a cheque. Bur passwords are a different matter, do they ask for those?

Yes I have been a victim of these scams. They come in as a recorded message I take these as an arrogant way of communicating. When I receive a recorded message I do not ever listen what the person has to say I just hang up, even though they bully me in saying the Police will be called to take me to court and prosecute me – b******s a scam !!!!. HRMC does not give away money for no reason !!.

The information you are supplying is excellent for those who are unsure if a message/phone call/email is genuine. Over the past months we’ve had scores of such scams and it’s only through guidance that we haven’t been caught out. The worst is a call from a scammer, pretending to be from your bank, warning that hundreds have been spent on an online shopping site and you need to verify through pressing a button if this was you. These always unnerve me and the only way out is by using another phone and contacting the bank directly. I’ve had 5 of these in the past 6 weeks. Thank you so much for keeping us all updated

Geoffrey Walter says:
11 December 2020

Interesting reading the postings, I myself haven’t had an e.mail scam letter for some time since in fact I changed to ESET Security. Telephone calls I do receive but if I do not recognise the number (particularly the somewhat longer ones) I delete it immediately. My attitude is, if it’s important they will call again and if no message is left on my answer machine then more deletions follow.

This is really informative Alex, thankyou for sharing. We really do need to be super vigilant to this type of activity, my mother had her bank details stolen only last week and only noticed deliveroo payments going out – this had actually happened 2 weeks earlier but she didnt notice the first time!

The more information on scams the better!

Bonaventure DeMenezes says:
11 December 2020

This afternoon when I was coming home from Queen Marys Hospital in Sidcup had a message HMRC Our records show that you you have a pending tax rebate I deleted it

I am loosing count of these stupid attempts.Latest today rebate of £135.07 for overpaid tax in 2018.Contact https//rebaterefund.com/ from phone no.447506148881.Merry Christmas!

Oscar Gyde says:
8 January 2021

we have had 2 phone calls today from the same American female voice claiming to be from HMRC threatening legal action, on 441147001376