HMRC scam: Government’s warning to tax credits customers, how to spot a fraudster - and what to do

Millions of people have been warned of potential fraudsters mimicking the Government to try and steal personal information or money

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is warning tax credit customers to be wary of scams and fraudsters imitating the department in an attempt to steal their personal information or money.

This information comes as 2.1 million tax credit customers are expected to renew their annual claims by 31 July 2022.

Here we take a look at how to spot a tax credits scam.

How will fraudsters be contacting people? 

The Government is warning tax credit customers that they could be more susceptible to criminals mimicking them via phone calls, text messages and emails.

These include phone calls threatening to arrest people if they don’t immediately pay the fictitious tax owed.

This could come under the guise of claiming that your National Insurance number has been used fraudulently, or with emails or texts offering fake tax rebates, bogus Covid-19 grants or claiming direct debit payments have failed.

How to recognise a scam

Legitimate businesses often send texts but they would not ask for personal or payment details if you were not expected to be contacted by them.

Another major way to spot a scam is if you feel rushed to submit any personal or sensitive details and not to discuss this with anyone else.

Having a time limit may put pressure on you to give your details away without thinking things through clearly, so it would always be a good idea to contact the organisation through a number or email on their website before giving any information away.

If a message is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors then it’s more likely it’s a fake message. Delete it and be wary of any similar messages that may come through.

What to do if you have received a scam call or message? 

If you have been contacted by a potential fraudster, it’s important you don’t reveal any personal details such as your bank account details or PIN.

For phone calls, at any point you feel uncomfortable you can hang up, and for text messages and emails, either delete them or ignore them.

One of the key aspects of a scam is the sense of urgency behind getting you to do a task, so if at any point you feel rushed, you can cease communication.

You can report any suspicious phone calls or messages via Action Fraud or Citizens’ advice.

If you think you may have been the victim of a scam, contact the police, call your bank to protect your account, and contact Action Fraud for more information on the next steps.

What has been said? 

In the last 12 months to April 2022, HMRC responded to nearly 277,000 referrals of suspicious contact received by the public.

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: “We’re urging all of our customers to be really careful if they are contacted out of the blue by someone asking for money or bank details.

“There are a lot of scams out there where fraudsters are calling, texting or emailing customers claiming to be from HMRC.

“If you have any doubts, we suggest you don’t reply directly and contact us straight away. Search GOV.UK for our ‘scams checklist’ and to find out ‘how to report tax scams’.”

HMRC has also urged people to be wary of misleading websites or adverts designed to make them pay for government services that should be free.

How to renew your tax credits 

Tax credit customers will not be charged for the service of renewing their annual claims.

To renew your tax credit, go to GOV.UK or the HMRC app for genuine information and guidance.

Customers choosing to use the HMRC app on their smartphone can:

  • renew their tax credits
  • update changes to their claim
  • check their tax credits payments schedule, and
  • find out how much they have earned for the year

HMRC has released a video to explain how tax credits customers can use the HMRC app to view, manage and update their details.

If there is a change in your circumstances that could affect your tax credits claims, report the changes to HMRC.

Circumstances that could affect tax credits payments include changes to:

  • living arrangements
  • childcare
  • working hours, or
  • income (increase or decrease)

Tax credits are ending and will be replaced by Universal Credit by the end of 2024.

Many customers who move from tax credits to Universal Credit could be financially better off and - can use an independent benefits calculator to check.

If you choose to apply sooner, it is important to get independent advice beforehand as you will not be able to go back to tax credits or any other benefits that Universal Credit replaces.