Taxpayers targeted by scammers

23 January 2024

With a week to go until the 31 January deadline and 3.8m taxpayers still to submit their tax returns for the year to 5 April 2023, some taxpayers might actually welcome a phone call from HMRC this week rather than sitting on hold.

However, taxpayers need to have their wits about them this week as we are hearing reports that scammers are leaving automated voicemail messages on mobiles, purporting to be from HMRC. 

It is very rare for HMRC to phone a taxpayer out-of-the-blue and certainly not from a mobile number. One RSM UK client received such a voicemail message this week and, after being encouraged to press a button to return the call, was put through to someone pretending to be an HMRC staff member.

The fraudster then started to request personal information such as the individual’s name, date of birth, address and unique tax reference. Thankfully in this case, the taxpayer quickly spotted that this was an attempt to extract their personal data and was swiftly hung up on when they started asking their own questions.

Such scammers may ultimately be hoping they can misdirect taxpayers to make payments to the wrong bank accounts or perhaps obtain personal data to reach a similar goal by other means.

This is not a new phenomenon but this is likely to be the week when taxpayers are most vulnerable to such a scam. In guidance published last year, HMRC highlighted that taxpayers should also be on the lookout for fraudulent texts and emails, as well as phone calls.

According to HMRC’s latest figures, it received more than 130,000 reports of scams in the year to 30 September 2023, of which 58,000 related to fake tax rebates. HMRC also responded to 60,000 reports of scam phone calls and took down 25,000 malicious web pages.

If a taxpayer does receive a message or call that they think is suspicious, this can be reported to HMRC directly on their website, by email at the address, and in the case of text messages, these can be forwarded to the number 60599.

Given it is not uncommon at the moment for phone calls to HMRC’s self-assessment helpline to be unexpectedly cut off, it may be tempting to believe a supposed return phone call is genuine. In practice, HMRC is not offering a call-back facility for queries to its self-assessment helpline. 

Simply calling out a suspicious caller as a scammer may be enough for them to hang up on you and confirm whether that gut feeling is justified or simply a case of indigestion. HMRC’s customer service performance may have come in for criticism recently but it is not at that level! Even if you are not hung up on, anyone receiving an unprompted message from HMRC should still approach it with a healthy dose of scepticism.