A tricky email scam has been bothering clients recently. That’s not new, but the fact that it’s exploiting HMRC’s digital first approach is.
“As you may be aware,” reads the email, “we have been trying to send your email regarding the outstanding tax returns with value of GBP 198.54 resulting from overpaid tax for year ending 2015, despite our previous letters to you notifying and reminding you to claim tax refund.”
The email utilises the classic disinformation strategy of fear, uncertainty and doubt to pressurise the reader into reacting. Less digitally savvy clients, in particular, could be very susceptible. “Requests for tax refunds are time limited and it is vital you complete your claim as soon as possible,” says the email.
Most troubling is the email’s exploitation of the confusion around HMRC’s digital first strategy. “As part of the new procedure of tax returns, you need to create a government gateway account,” the scam email explains, providing a false URL where taxpayers can “create government gateway account and submit the tax refund request”.
According to AccountingWEB contributor and long-time member Jennifer Adams, this is the third instance this month where her clients have received this email. Adams posted an Any Answers thread asking whether other accountants have noticed up-tick in these scams, too.
Many AccountingWEB members have noted not only emails but phone calls from people purporting to be HMRC. “On the phone theme, one of my clients has just had a message left for him to call ‘HMRC’ before they take legal action,” said Time for Change. “Needless to say, he’s quite savvy and has only called me to check that it is indeed a scam.”
HMRC’s official guidance stresses that it “will never ask you to provide personal or financial information” via text message or email.
In a statement, HMRC said that it is “aware of a bogus email advising customers they need to ‘create a government gateway account’ in order to receive a tax refund” flagged by Adams. “Do not respond to the email, click on any links or download any attachments. Please forward it to [email protected] and then delete it,” the tax authority said.
Gov.UK has the full list of digital and other contact taxpayers and agents can expect from HMRC.
Have you or your clients experienced this scam?