Sarah Lenette, one of Starling’s financial crime specialists, offers advice on how to spot ‘HMRC scams’.
You receive a call, text or email from what looks like the tax authorities at HMRC and they want to talk about your taxes. It must be genuine, right? But wait: are you sure they really are HMRC and not criminals?
It’s a scam that’s been around for years and it’s still here. A criminal impersonates HMRC or law enforcement, contacting victims to demand an immediate payment for an outstanding tax payment or tax-related fines. They may even threaten their target with arrest or a visit from bailiffs, if a payment isn’t made during the call.
This type of call can feel very real and it’s easy to be sucked in by how professional the caller sounds. They may even know some of your personal information, possibly gained through phishing emails or texts.
Contact may be initiated by a voicemail, telling you to expect a call from someone to discuss a case in your name, or even a call from an automated voice, telling you to press a number on your phone’s keypad, often ‘1’, to be connected to a ‘caseworker’. Any calls or texts can appear to come from a phone number linked to HMRC, law enforcement or the courts - this is known as phone number spoofing.
During the conversation, you will be given a story as to why you need to send funds immediately - maybe a former employer has messed up your tax code, or you’re told that you’ve been evading tax payments. It may even be as complex as being told that you’ve been impersonated by someone racking up debt and tax bills in your name and have to pay a fine whilst an investigation is taking place.