Millions of tax credits claimants have been warned to look out for scammers claiming to be HMRC.
Dangerous fraudsters are pretending to be from HMRC and asking recipients to hand over money.
People who claim tax credits are expecting to receive their remaining annual renewal packs in the post this week from the government, meaning they could be vulnerable to falling for a sophisticated scam.
It comes as new figures revealed that in the year to 30 April HMRC responded to more than 1,154,300 reports of suspicious contact from members of the public.
So, what is the scam warning and how can you look out for it?
What is the HMRC scam?
The government has warned that anyone who is carrying out their tax credits renewal who has received a tax benefits scam text, email or call could be fooled into thinking it is from HMRC.
HMRC said people could be “contacted out of the blue” by someone asking for money or bank details.
Scammers hope to trick claimants into giving them their personal details or transferring money for a fake overpayment by pretending to work for HMRC.
And some fraudsters could mimic official government messages in order to appear authentic, using HMRC branding and logos or including links to the official HMRC address or phone number.
Many people are still on the old-style tax credits system, instead of Universal Credit, and have until 31 July to renew their tax credits.
HMRC is sending out the last of its tax credit renewal packs this week to claimants, which say whether or not you will need to renew or update your information.
This timing is why the government is urging people to be wary of scammers, as some people may fall victim to fraud while keeping an eye out for genuine correspondence from HMRC.
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.”
How can you tell if you’re being scammed?
If you suspect you have been contacted by a scammer - for example, if you have doubts over the identity of the caller or sender - HMRC advises that you should not respond and should contact them directly instead.
You are also able to search the government’s website for its checklist of scams and to report a fraud online.
It says you could have been targeted if a call, email or text is:
- Offering a refund, tax rebate or grant
- Asking for personal information like bank details
- Asking you to transfer money.
You can also view examples of HMRC-related bogus contact to help you to identify a scam.
There’s additionally a list of genuine HMRC contacts and campaigns to support you in identifying if the one you have received is real.
HMRC says it will only ever call people asking them about a claim or payment on debt that they already know about.
It will also never leave a voicemail threatening legal action or ever give the reason for a call on a voice message.
What can you do if you’ve been scammed?
If you think you’ve been a victim of a scam and lost money, you are able to report the incident to Action Fraud.
Meanwhile, if you’ve given away personal information you can report this disclosure to the HMRC security team.