HMRC phishing scam letters: how to stay vigilant

Feb 21, 2023 | Tax Tuesday

In 2023, we’re no longer strangers to phishing scams and the damage they can cause.

In the digital age, we’re all too familiar with receiving scam emails, texts, and phone calls on a regular basis. However, there are currently a number of scam letters circulating, allegedly from HMRC, requiring you to take urgent action regarding tax rebates and penalties or asking for personal and payment information.

Although HMRC emphasises that they will never contact you by email, text, phone call, or messages by applications such as WhatsApp about your taxes or personal information, you may receive letters about these. This opens up an easy method for scammers to catch you out.

At Harold Sharp we try our best to protect our clients from falling victim to phishing scams. Recently, however, we were made aware of two letters that are in circulation claiming to be from HMRC.

This Tax Tuesday, we thought we’d share our advice on how to identify HMRC phishing scams and what to do if you think you’ve received one.

Current scams

We are directly aware of two different scam letters in circulation at the moment, which claim to have been sent by HMRC.

  • In one case, the letters asks you to call an 0300 number (0300 200 3819), which is a deceptively similar number to each of HMRC’s contact numbers which begin 0300 200.
  • In the other, the letter was asking for overdue PAYE amounts to be paid. In this case, the reference was incorrect and there was a DM in front of PAYE in the address block.

How to identify fake HMRC correspondence

As soon as you open a scam letter, it’s likely alarm bells will start ringing in your head. This is because the style of the letter will probably give the scammer away, such as if it:

  • urges you to rush
  • has a threatening tone
  • arrives unexpectedly
  • asks you for p ersonal information
  • instructs you to transfer money; or
  • says you’re eligible for a refund, tax rebate or grant.

Not only the points above, but if you’ve ever been targeted by a phishing scam of any sort, you’re probably aware that the spelling and grammar often give the game away for them. Similarly, you may notice that the visual elements of the letter are poor quality, as it is probably a screenshot of the official graphics.

Note: From January 2023, HMRC might send you a text message if you call one of their helplines from a mobile phone. HMRC have published further information on their website detailing examples of HMRC related phishing emails, suspicious phone calls and texts.

What to do if you are targeted by a phishing scam

It’s important to note that a genuine HMRC letter will ask you to contact them to discuss any late payments, before asking for urgent payment.

On the HMRC website, you can find all the points of contact for different queries. So, if you receive a letter demanding money for a late payment of income tax (for example), we would advise that you find the dedicated contact for Income Tax queries, and call them to check if you actually owe income tax.

Also, HMRC have published guidance on genuine letters that you are likely to receive from them, so you can also consult this if you’re unsure.

For email, text and phone call scams, there are also specific action points for reporting them: