Beware of the bogus taxman

Tax Bulletin - June 2018

Residents in north Essex have been targeted recently by unscrupulous conmen who are making bogus calls to householders in an attempt to defraud them out of their cash.

The conmen are targeting individuals by phone. Claiming to be from HMRC the criminals will then demand payment for supposed under-payment of tax, sometimes going back years and frighten the resident into handing over their money.

Increasingly sophisticated in their approach, the bogus callers appear to do their homework in advance of making the calls, gathering information on their victims in an attempt to make themselves look genuine, and in many cases it is working. By threatening their victims with bogus court action or claiming that there is a warrant out for the victim for tax owed, the conmen are scaring their victims into handing over significant sums of money in order to avoid what their victims believe to be real legal action against them.

Graham Doubtfire, Tax Partner at Scrutton Bland has seen this happen in his own area in Colchester, Essex: "We have certainly had clients receive calls of this nature, but thankfully they have called us to check before responding. The callers are very sophisticated in their approach and have targeted affluent areas. They will have gathered a lot of information before making that call in order to convince the recipient. We are also concerned that with quarterly tax payments becoming due at the end of July, some clients are being sent phishing emails relating to those payments."

If you do receive an automated call claiming to be from HMRC, Graham’s advice is simple: "Put the phone down and contact your tax adviser who can help you verify whether or not HMRC are genuinely trying to contact you." You can also check with HMRC online at www.gov.uk/topic/dealing-with-hmrc/phishing-scams and if you use a mobile phone there are various free apps that you can use that will give an indication as to who is calling that has been logged by other users so you can block the number.

For further information on how to avoid being the victim of fraud, visit www.bit.ly/2Ih6vIL which takes you to the government’s website pages on phishing and bogus emails.