Following last week’s article on phishing and managed security awareness training, this week is all about another sort of cybersecurity hack you need to be aware of. Unfortunately, this sort of attempted scam is more challenging to spot. Devised by hackers and criminals worldwide, tax scams are perhaps the easiest way for hackers to steal your details and money. However, that does not mean that you have to accept that these cybercriminals can get away with it. There are ways that you can cope with these constant tax scam messages, and here’s what to look for.

What is a tax scam?

Ignoring tax scams used to be as simple as just disregarding a spam email that had arrived in your junk folder. Although claiming to be addressed from HMRC, a more detailed look at the email address would help you quickly identify a scam. There would usually be obvious spelling errors to look out for in addition.

Nowadays, however, tax scams are a lot more challenging to spot. Someone could be trying to gain your details via the phone, email, or text message. The scary thing for most businesses and individuals is that now these are much more authentic and harder to spot. If a government authority or organisation contacts you, it must be legitimate? Have you missed a payment date? Did you forget to complete a tax return or file an invoice? All these thoughts and questions will go through your mind, and before you know it, you’ve clicked on the link or answered a security question. Once you’ve done that, there is no turning back. That hacker or cybercriminal will then have your details or personal data.

tax scams

How to spot tax scams

There is a reason these cybercriminals choose tax scams. As mentioned before, as soon as an email or text comes through from HMRC, your mind goes blank, and it can induce a state of panic. Alternatively, it can cause excitement as sometimes a hacker might say that you are entitled to money, and you need to click on a link to get it. Criminals have been doing it for years, and they do not look like stopping. So, here’s how you can spot a tax scam, barring the apparent false email address and spelling errors.

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What will HMRC contact you about?

Spotting an HMRC tax scam can be pretty straightforward. First, however, you need to remember some key facts, as highlighted on the Government website:

You will never get an email, a text message, or a message in an application (such as Whatsapp) that includes information regarding a tax rebate or penalty and personal or payment information.

tax scams
What to do if you receive an HMRC tax scam message?

If you receive an email that claims to be from HMRC, you should never click on any of the links. HMRC would never ask you to follow any links. You should also never reply to any emails or texts with confidential or payment information. However, HMRC does provide an option for you to contact them directly, and this is the best way to determine whether or not the email is a scam (if the obvious signs are not there).

Many fraudsters are becoming imaginative and creative in their methods also. For example, sometimes, you may receive a phone call from a mobile number, and once you’ve answered, the caller on the other end is silent. Why do they do this? Because they would like to confirm that the mobile number is functional and that there is a natural person on the other end of the phone who will also answer the phone.

According to HMRC, they may sometimes contact a person about outstanding tax bills. In this case, they will always quote your taxpayer reference number. If it is an automated message, listen out for the reference number and ensure it aligns up against yours. You can then always contact HMRC about how to pay.

Neuways recommends

Regarding possible tax scams, the advice Neuways provides to customers, and anybody else is to take a step back and look for scam identifiers. Phrases such as ‘immediate action’ are designed to cause panic, and the human mind is trained to get it sorted out straight away. If you are concerned and get what you perceive to be an alarming email, always go through the official channels with HMRC. In addition, some clarity will also help. Stepping back and thinking about what you possibly owe/are entitled to before taking any action is very important.

If you have been affected by a tax scam

If you or someone you know has been affected by a possible scam, you should contact HMRC as soon as possible via the official channels (not through any links they have sent!). The sooner you make HMRC aware of any potential issues, and it can help avoid long-lasting damage.

So if your business experiences a potential attack, and one of your employees may not be aware, it is time to get in touch with Neuways. We can be your Managed Service Provider; call us on 01283 753333 to see what steps we can take to help safeguard your business.
Download How to Spot a Phishing Guide