How to recognise tax scam phone calls, emails and text messages

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has recently published updated its guidance on how to identify tax scams made by phone, email, or text.

It advises that if you receive a phone call, email, or text message that purports to be from HMRC, it is likely to be fake if it:

  • rushes you;
  • is threatening;
  • is unexpected;
  • asks for personal information, such as bank details;
  • tells you to transfer money; or
  • offers a refund, tax rebate or grant.

HMRC also confirms what it will and won’t do if it contacts you.

By phone:
HMRC will never threaten arrest or leave a voicemail threatening legal action.

By text:
HMRC does send text messages that may include a link to GOV.UK information or HMRC webchat. HMRC staff will never ask for personal or financial information. So, a text
message that offers a tax refund in exchange for personal or financial details cannot be from it.

By WhatsApp:
If you have subscribed to the UK Government Channel, you may receive occasional tax-related reminders, but you will not be able to reply. HMRC doesn’t otherwise use WhatsApp to communicate with taxpayers.

HMRC does sometimes use QR codes in its letters but only to take you to guidance on GOV.UK, but it confirms that you would never be taken to a page that requires you to provide
personal information. QR codes might also be used after you have already logged in to redirect you to, say, your bank login page.

You can check whether a phone call, email or text is genuine by consulting HMRC’s website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/check-a-list-of-genuine-hmrc-contacts

Guidance, including some examples of HMRC related phishing emails, suspicious phone calls and texts is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phishing-and-bogus-emails-hm-revenue-and-customs-examples/phishing-emails-and-bogus-contact-hm-revenue-and-customs-examples