Fake HMRC Letters – How to spot them and what to do
The number of fake HMRC letters circulating is increasing, and it’s important that you’re aware of them, and can protect both yourself and your business.
How can you tell if a letter is fake?
It could be really difficult! They look credible and could cover any type of tax that you may genuinely need to pay.
Look out for poor English or a poor quality logo, which are often tell tale signs.
Remember that HMRC will NOT contact you for the first time with an urgent demand for payment or any other action.
You will usually receive a letter asking you to get in touch to discuss any debt, with follow up letters well before anything at all threatening. We’d certainly have been informed as your accountant, so always check with us.
What should you do if you receive a letter from HMRC?
- If you receive ANY correspondence from HMRC, please send us a copy. As your agent, we should receive our own copy from HMRC but it’s not always the case! We can verify the validity of the letter for you BEFORE you make any payments.
- If you receive a letter asking for money, check the amount against the amount we’ve warned you as being due. If we haven’t warned you of a liability, or the amounts differ, please email or call us BEFORE you make your payment. As clients will be aware, we warn you in good time of any liabilities, and this is the clearest warning signal of a fake demand that you may get!
- Pay any amounts through BACS, cheque or the method you have used previously. Avoid paying over the phone at all costs. The references that you’ll need to make payments to will change, so HMRC can allocate them correctly, but bank details only change very rarely. This could be another warning signal so be aware as you make your payments.
- Report any fake HMRC letters you receive to Action Fraud to reduce the risk for the future.
We all need to be vigilant with all HMRC communications we may receive. We’re all fairly used to scam emails and text messages, but these letters are becoming more of a threat. Please get in touch if you have any concerns.
What about phone calls?
Always regard them with suspicion! If you receive a phone call that purports to be from HMRC, and in particular if they’re asking for money, refer them straight to us. If genuine, HMRC should know who your agent is, and will not need to be told.
Never give away personal details of any type. Security questions are one thing, but be aware of what questions you’re answering, especially when you’re busy.
And what about emails?
The same guidance applies as for letters. If you receive anything purporting to be from HMRC, please send it on to us.
HMRC will never email a taxpayer asking for money, or letting you know about a refund you may be due. If you receive anything that does so, it’s a scam and should be deleted immediately. Don’t follow any links in the messages, as they may launch spy-ware onto your device.
Look carefully at the address the email has come from; they usually show an address with an extra character added or omitted.
There are other posts in our Info Centre that provide more details around identifying or reporting these phishing scams. The bottom line is to be very careful and please get in touch with us if you’re unsure.
We send regular updates that keep clients aware of changes and suggestions on a wide range of subjects; if you’d like to receive those too, just add your details below and we’ll do the rest! We promise not to bombard you and you can unsubscribe at any time.