Sunday, 12 January 2014

A taxing time for some consumers

HMRC Tax Returns
Christmas is finally over, the last turkey rissole has been digested, the trail of pine needles throughout the house is all that is left of the tree, and the bits of glitter that will stay enmeshed in the shag pile carpet until July, are all that remains of the festive season. New Year, new resolutions, new diet and yes of course, the new consumer scams this time linked to tax returns and self-assessment. Many tax returns are due back by the end of January, and the scammers have been busy trying to prise our personal information via our email and empty our bank accounts.

January sees an increase in scams on tax refunds 

Trading Standards Officers have been flagging up the latest scam to hit the internet, which are phishing emails that claim to come from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The emails come through purporting to be from HMRC telling you that you are due a tax refund and asking you to complete the attached forms to claim your money. Of course it isn’t from the Tax Office but it does look very official which is what the conmen are getting very good at, because they want you to disclose your personal data and financial information for them to use. As the end of January deadline approaches for those completing their tax self-assessment, this is an ideal opportunity for fraudsters to up their game and it is worth keeping a weather eye on this, particularly if you run your own business or are self-employed. 

HMRC want to hear from consumers if fraudulent emails received 

HMRC are very clear about how they collect your information and they will never request you to send this via an email, or indeed tell you of any tax refund via email. They also don’t use email to request payment of any overdue taxes or fines, but for further confirmation it is worth visiting the HMRC website if you are not sure. However, as a follow up word of warning, just before Christmas, conmen set up a website with the words “gateway” and “tax office” and several people logged thinking this was the correct site for their self-assessment. They were then asked to pay around £400 which people did and of course, this was a scam. 

HMRC are requesting if consumers do get a suspicious email like this that they forward it to the Tax Office on phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and then delete it. Similarly if you are carrying out your self-assessment then go through their site at www.hmrc.gov.uk 2014 is a new start and as consumers we still need to watch every penny spent, so don’t get caught out and if you or someone you know, has had a similar problem or got caught up in other consumer scams then drop us a line at iRateiSlate - so we can spread the word and make sure someone else doesn’t lose out as well.

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