Tax credits customers warned of scammers posing as HMRC

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) warns tax credit customers about scams and fraudsters who impersonate the department in an attempt to steal their personal information or money.

About 2.1 million tax credit customers are expected to renew their annual claims by July 31, 2022 and may be more susceptible to tactics used by criminals who mimic government messages to make them appear authentic.

During the 12 months preceding April 2022, HMRC responded to nearly 277,000 suspicious contact referrals received from the public. Fraudsters use phone calls, text messages and emails to try to dupe individuals – often trying to rush them into making decisions. HMRC won’t call anyone out of the blue threatening arrest – only criminals do that.

Typical examples of scams include:

  • phone calls threatening arrest if people do not immediately pay the shadow tax due. Sometimes they claim the victim’s national insurance number was used fraudulently
  • emails or text messages offering bogus tax refunds, fake COVID-19 grants, or claiming that a direct debit payment has failed

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRCThe Managing Director of Client Services, said:

We urge all our customers to be very careful if they are contacted out of the blue by someone asking for money or bank details.

There are many scams where fraudsters call, text or email customers claiming to be from HMRC. If in doubt, we suggest that you do not respond directly and contact us immediately. Search GOV.UK for our ‘scam checklist’ and find out ‘how to report tax scams’.

HMRC does not charge customers tax credits for renewing their annual applications and also urges them to be alert to misleading websites or advertisements designed to charge them for government services that should be free, often charging for a connection to HMRC telephone help lines.

Renewing online is quick and easy. Customers can log into GOV.UK to check the progress of their renewal, be reassured that it is being processed and know when they will receive a response from HMRC. Customers who choose to use the HMRC the application on their smartphone can:

  • renew your tax credits
  • update changes to their claim
  • check their tax credit payment schedule, and
  • find out how much they earned for the year

HMRC released a video to explain how tax credit customers can use the HMRC app to view, manage and update their details.

How to use the HMRC app to manage my tax credits?

If there is a change in a client’s circumstances that could affect their claims for tax credits, they must report the changes to HMRC. Circumstances that may affect tax credit payments include changes to:

  • lifestyles
  • babysitting
  • working hours or
  • income (increase or decrease)

Tax Credits are ending and will be replaced by Universal Credit by the end of 2024. Many customers who switch from Tax Credits to Universal Credit may be better off financially and can use an independent benefit calculator to to verify. If clients choose to apply sooner, it is important to seek independent advice beforehand, as they will not be able to revert to tax credits or any other benefits that Universal Credit replaces.

More information

Learn more about renewing tax credit claims.

Customers can download the HMRC free app from their smartphone app store.

Customers should remain vigilant about protecting their HMRC login details. They should not share their Government Gateway username and password with anyone.

The transmission of sensitive personal information, even inadvertently, puts individuals at risk. Someone using someone else’s Government Gateway account could steal both the account owner and HMRC and require customers to refund the full value of any fraudulent refund requests made on their behalf.

Over the last year (12-month rolling period: May 2021 to April 2022) HMRC possesses:

  • responded to 276,930 suspicious contact reports from the public. Of these, 115,326 offered bogus tax refunds
  • worked with the telecommunications industry and Ofcom to remove 99 phone numbers used to sign up HMRC-related phone scams
  • responded to 95,921 total scam reports over the phone, down 78% from the previous year. In April 2020, we received reports of only 425 phone scams. By April 2022, that number had risen to 5,024
  • flagged 6,025 malicious web pages for removal
  • detected 463 financial scams related to COVID-19 since March 2020, most by SMS
  • asked Internet Service Providers to remove 443 fraudulent web pages related to COVID-19.

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Edward L. Robinett