January 5th 2021
Scammers are already busy sending out fake ‘HMRC’ texts following yesterday’s announcement of another national lockdown.
Frauds exploiting people’s concern and confusion over COVID-19 began as soon as the pandemic hit, with numbers subsequently rocketing. The many themes have included fake test and trace calls to tax refunds, advertisements for non-existent PPE to vaccines, and fraudulent offers to deliver food and medical supplies in return for prepayment.
The latest scam text message also includes a number of variants, with one reading “From HMRC: The third lockdown has been announced, we have been issued a grant off (sic) £240 to help during this period, visit to claim:”
Clicking on the link takes the recipient to a fraudulent website (shown here), which impersonates the official gov.uk site. It tells users that they will need to have their card details ready.
Again, the latest tranche of scam messages includes those promising tax rebates.
Speaking to Sky News, an HMRC spokesperson said: “Criminals are taking advantage of the package of measures announced by the government to support people and businesses affected by coronavirus.
“Scammers text, email or phone taxpayers offering spurious financial support or tax refunds, sometimes threatening them with arrest if they don’t immediately pay fictitious tax owed.
“HMRC has detected 275 COVID-19 related financial scams since March, most by text message. We have asked Internet Service Providers to take down 254 related scam pages,” they added.
“Several of the scams mimic government messages as a way of appearing authentic and unthreatening.
“Over the last year HMRC reported 3,387 phone numbers being used in tax-related phone scams to telecommunication companies for takedown, and responded to over 306,219 reports of phone scams from the public, an increase of 47% on the previous year.”
Any unsolicited texts, emails or phone calls claiming to be from HMRC offering financial assistance, informing you that you have either underpaid or overpaid tax or requesting your bank details, should be treated with suspicion.
The NCSC advises that suspicious text messages should be forwarded free of charge to 7726. If you discover that you have been the victim of COVID-related or any other type of fraud, report it to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.