HMRC will be sending out emails to those people who have registered on the government gateway over the next few weeks.
As the self assessment deadline fast approaches, they may get in touch to give you an update on your statement.
And that means scammers will be hoping you’ll fall for their fake emails. Generally, fraudsters don’t care when they contact you, so you may receive emails from them throughout the year.
But they really hope that they’ll grab your cash at this time of year when you’re busy in the run-up to Christmas and self assessment deadline.
If you’re weighed down with receipts and invoices, it can be very easy to see an email from HMRC, panic and assume it’s real.
It’s one of the reasons we advise our clients to get their self assessment completed over the summer months.
Seeing the dreaded HMRC name and logo can be unnerving, but it’s quite easy to tell a fake email from a real one.
We have provided some images that show a real email and a fake. The simple rule of thumb is that if the email is real it WON’T have any links for you to click. And the other rule is if you’re not sure IGNORE the email.
If you have a Government Gateway account you can always log into it at any time. There you will find real HMRC messages, so you can safely ignore that email. If it really is from HMRC the message will be there to read from their website.
If you have an accountant then you can contact them. At Guidon Group, we often get requests from clients regarding their tax issues that they have been emailed about. As an authorised tax agent for our clients, we will be notified too. So we will contact you as soon as we receive correspondence.
So if you’re unsure, ask your accountant. If they’ve not been contacted directly from HMRC, then they will tell you.
What else to look out for
1. Fake addresses.
This can be a bit difficult to spot, but the only email address used will be from @hmrc.gov.uk. If you click on the ‘from’ section of the email it reveals the actual address. Some will try and use HMRC in some way in their address, but chances are it will include something like @yahoo, @gmail. Also, there’s a chance it won’t be a .co.uk address.
If you’re really unsure, forward it to HMRC’s phishing team. Their email is email@example.com and they’ll offer guidance.
2. Offering a rebate
An email telling you you’re owed a rebate of £733.48 can make you want to open a bottle of fizz, but — sorry to spoil the party — don’t respond to these emails.
HMRC never offers repayments, tells you about rebates or asks for personal information in emails. So don’t respond to them or click any links.
3. Demanding immediate action
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs strikes fear in the heart of many. And that means fraudsters know that you may do anything asked of you to avoid fines or imprisonment. But HMRC never sends emails demanding immediate action. If there are phrases such as ‘urgent action required’ or ‘you have only four days to respond’ they are likely to be a scam.
4. Bogus links and attachments
Whether the email you receive is about rebates or immediate action, if there’s a link DON’T click on it. HMRC only informs you of messages on the Government Gateway. They do this to ensure you’re not duped. Clicking a link or downloading an attachment could put your personal information at risk. Just delete the email!
5. ‘Dear Sir/Madam’
If the email uses the phrase above, or just says, ‘Hello’ then it’s extremely likely to be fraudulent. Genuine emails will address you by your name. They also include information about reporting suspicious emails. Even this information doesn’t link to the website!
If you’re suspicious, delete the email! You can contact your accountant too or contact HMRC to check whether the email is genuine.
Guidon Group is a chartered management accountant based in Stockton-on-Tees. We also offer bookkeeping services.