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Cyber teams uncovered 5,000 criminal phishing scams preying on people’s savings last year

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By Mel Stride MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury

IN 2018, more than one million suspicious messages were reported to HMRC – that’s one every 30 seconds.

HMRC works relentlessly to stamp out fraud we hear about. But sadly, too many people are still falling victim, sometimes losing their hard-earned savings.

One person falling prey to a tax scam is one too many. Not only are scam emails and phone calls a nuisance, but they often prey on the elderly and most vulnerable.

Last year over 14,000 fake HMRC websites were shut down and 450 phone lines belonging to crooks were disconnected. While we know the public are increasingly savvy to these scams,
HMRC’s security experts are already onto over half of them before they’re even reported – shutting them down before victims can be duped.

Our swift action against email and SMS phishing scams has meant a rising number of criminals are turning to boiler-room style methods to reach their victims. Increasingly, our intelligence suggest fraudsters are aggressively cold-calling honest people on their home landlines and hassling them until they hand over money.

We are taking action, but we can’t do it alone. There are a few quick steps you can take to protect yourself and others from attack.

Look out for the signs it’s a scam. HMRC will only ever call you asking for payment on a debt that you already know about, and have received a letter about it, or after you’ve told us you owe some tax, for example through a Self-Assessment return. Genuine organisations don’t call people out of the blue.

Keep your details safe – don’t give out private information, don’t respond to aggressive callers and don’t download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting.

If you do receive a call to your landline from someone claiming to be from HMRC who threatens legal action or prison if you don’t pay up, hang-up and report it – it’s a hoax!

Top tips:

  1. If in doubt always call HMRC using the numbers on Gov.UK
  2. Report all tax scams to
  3. If you suffer financial loss, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

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