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UK taxpayers facing millions of HMRC scams

(Image credit: Image Credit: Wright Studio / Shutterstock)

Fraudsters hit UK taxpayers with more than 1.5 million fake emails, calls and text messages over the last two years, new figures have claimed.

According to official figures obtained by Griffin Law, over 254,000 phone scams were reported to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customers (HMRC) during the two-year time period, with incidences rising sharply from 58,538 reports in 2018 to 195,720 the following year.

The number of fake SMS messages received by taxpayers also rose by 56 percent, from 36,950 to 57,759.

However email scams declined from 851,805 in 2018 to 333,859 last year. Although the figure remains substantial, the drop represents a 60 percent decrease year-on-year.

The change in attack method, according to Griffin Law, suggests either taxpayers are becoming more attuned to email threats and spam filtration systems have improved, or cybercriminals are experiencing greater success via mobile.

Students were especially likely to fall victim to phishing scams claiming to offer tax rebates. Universities in Cambridge, Heriot Watt, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, St Andrews, Plymouth and Wolverhampton were among the most heavily targeted.

Donal Blaney, Managing Director at Griffin Law, concedes the scams can be extremely convincing but suggests it's important to be alert to a few obvious giveaways.

“No reputable organisation will ask for your private account details or tell you to click through on a link and supply personal data or passwords,” he advised.

“Many [fraudsters] are very good, but quick clues such as spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in the text, or if it is sent from an obscure looking email address, may indicate that you are being scammed.”