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How to avoid tax year scams

Fraudsters use key times in the tax year to make ‘social engineering’ attacks.

These include the deadline for self-assessment tax returns on 31 January and also the end of the tax year in early April. 

Be on your guard for criminals pretending to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and:

  • sending scam emails (known as phishing)
  • sending scam texts (sometimes called smishing)
  • making bogus phone calls (also referred to as vishing)

Here are some tips to help you watch out for scams that try to trick you into handing over your personal or financial information.

How to spot an HMRC scam

These scams come in many forms. Criminals may say you've received a tax rebate or warn that you could be arrested for tax evasion. Often they’ll follow up a fake email or text with a phone call and ask for your account details.

Stay alert and don’t let yourself be rushed. HMRC will never ring you and threaten arrest.

Be suspicious of unsolicited emails, texts or phone calls, even if they appear to come from a legitimate source. 

Remember that criminals have ways of sending messages and making calls that appear to have been sent by organisations such as HMRC. Fraudsters use:

  • ‘text spoofing’ to make the sender’s name on a message seem like it’s from a genuine source
  • ‘phone number spoofing’ to make calls look like they’re coming from a genuine call centre

HMRC has issued its own advice about how to tell if an email is genuine.

With bogus phone calls, the fraudster may pretend to be from HMRC and warn you that police will come to arrest you unless a tax bill is paid immediately. The caller can be very aggressive.

What to do about suspicious emails, texts and phone calls

If you get a suspicious email you think may be an HMRC scam:

  • don’t reply
  • don’t click on a link
  • don't open any attachments

Forward suspicious tax emails to and texts claiming to be from HMRC to 60599. You can use HMRC’s online form to report tax scam phone calls.  

If you think you’re being targeted by a bogus phone call, don’t be afraid to hang up. If you have call barring, you could block the incoming number for future calls - but only if it’s not been spoofed or withheld.

Check out the government-backed campaign Take Five to learn more about how to guard against financial fraud.

You can also download the HSBC Fraud and Cyber Awareness app to get the latest alerts straight to your phone and test your knowledge with our range of quizzes.

Don't share your HMRC login details 

You should treat your tax login the same as your banking details - never share them with anyone, even your tax agent if you have one. 

If criminals got your HMRC login details, they could steal from you and make bogus claims, which you would have to pay back.

If you do have a tax agent to help you, they should use HMRC’s digital services for agents. They should never ask you to share your login details.