There are a lot of fake calls, emails and letters circulating and far more than I have time or space to describe. However, I want to concentrate on the HMRC lookalikes. These are the ones where you get a call or email from what appears to be HMRC telling you that you are due a tax refund and if you give them your bank details, they will arrange to pay it without delay. Some of these calls take a different approach, saying that you owe HMRC money and need to pay it promptly using the bank account they give you to avoid penalties. There are even ones saying that you are under investigation for tax fraud.
The emails use the HMRC colours, logos and style and even have some links which actually take you to the HMRC website. But the one they want you to click on will take you somewhere else, and probably not in this country.
When these scams are described like this you cannot imagine anyone being fooled, but if the scammers were not generally successful, they would not do it. If ever you are in any doubt, either speak to your accountant who can put you right, or contact HMRC using a phone number from the web, and not the one the scammers give you. Always take a name and telephone number and say you will call them back. Never do anything immediately. Nothing dire is going to happen that quickly no matter what they say on the phone or in the email.
HMRC will never call you to inform you of a refund, debt, court action etc. unless they have already sent you the letter in the customary brown envelope.
If you understand that these calls are fake, you can actually have a lot of fun with them. I was sent a link this week to a LinkedIn page where people were swapping scam the scammers stories.
Here is an example.
“Just had a call from HMRC to inform me I’m being investigated for Tax Fraud. Luckily the automated message allowed me to be put through to a member of HMRC’s team to discuss it immediately to stop the warrant for my arrest being issued…
However if they were playing make believe with me I thought it was only fair I got to play it with them.
HMRC Scammer – Can I please take your name, address and national insurance number
Me – My name is Detective Inspector Steve Arnott of AC12 the Anti Corruption department for the metropolitan police…..
HMRC Scammer – Hung up”
What about all those other calls that we all seem to get these days. The thread also had examples of dealing with calls from claims companies.
I used to have a standard answer for mobile phone salespeople who phoned up. I would just say that I would never have one of these devices because they fry your brain. I think they thought the target (Me!) was a bit whacko and moved on. I have also found that calls from utility brokers are best dealt with by telling them that we have just signed a seven-year deal and, yes, I would be happy to speak to them after that.
I used to work with an accountant who would answer the phone “Battersea Dogs Home, how can we help you?”. Not sure what a scammer would make of that one. And yes, he was a bit strange.
How do you deal with these unsolicited calls? When they come into our office, our gatekeepers (receptionists) are adept at getting rid of them. But every now and again, one gets through, so I do get to speak to them now and again. Brightens up my day!
But on the more serious matter of calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, don’t take any chances. You know where to find us.
Alan E Long
The Long Partnership