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Recognising when contact from HMRC is and is not genuine

Alert message sent 24/05/2019 15:57:00

Information sent on behalf of West Yorkshire Police

Some of you have responded to the crime prevention message that we sent out last week regarding the HMRC Refund email, stating that you have received telephone calls or automated messages purporting to be from HMRC, in which you are either accused of tax fraud, or informed that you owe money to HMRC. Typically, the caller then demands immediate payment and threatens to take legal action if these payments are not made. In some cases, the caller states that there is a warrant out for your arrest and that a Police Officer will be attending shortly to arrest you.

Please rest assured that these calls are NOT legitimate.

The aim of these calls is to pressurise individuals into giving their card details, bank account information or other personal details, and/or to force individuals to make payments directly to the suspect.

Tax scams can happen to anyone at any time, but are most common around key deadlines, such as when your tax return is due.

How to spot the signs of the HMRC telephone/automated message scam:

1) Threatening language- A common sign of a scam is the use of threatening language which is designed to prevent you from thinking carefully about your actions and to pressure you into acting quickly.

2) Being contacted unexpectedly- HMRC may genuinely contact individuals regarding outstanding tax bills via telephone and may sometimes use automated messages. However, they will not do this without first having informed you of the outstanding debt by letter, or without receiving notification from you that tax is owed, for example through a self-assessment return.

3) Being asked to share personal details over the phone- Genuine organisations will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your bank details or other personal information.

How to protect yourself:

1) Do not give out personal information via text, email or phone if you have been contacted unexpectedly.

2) If you have caller display, do not assume that the number that appears on the screen is the number that is actually being used. Criminals can use something called number spoofing to make it seem like they are calling from a legitimate phone number. The number may well look like a HMRC contact number, but that does not mean that it is!

3) Following on from the above point, it is always a good idea to try to verify the identity of the caller. Do not be afraid to tell the caller that you wish to verify their identity and then hang up! You should then conduct your own independent research in order to identify the legitimate contact details for HMRC. You can either look up their phone number on the government website (, or use the telephone number listed on a trusted piece of correspondence that you have previously received, such as a letter.

How to report HMRC scams:

1) Forward suspicious emails and details of suspicious phone calls to the HMRC phishing team using the email address

2) Forward suspicious text messages to 60599. Please note that messages will be charged at your network rate.

3) If you have been a victim of one of these scams please report it to Action Fraud either via telephone on 0300 123 2040, or on their website using their online fraud reporting tool.

For further information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact, please visit the website ( or follow HMRC on Twitter @HMRCgovuk

Updated: 28/05/2019 by Jessica Schofield (West Yorkshire Police, Crime Management Investigator, Economic Crime Unit)
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Jessica Schofield (West Yorkshire Police, Crime Management Investigator, Economic Crime Unit)

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