The Weekend FT has a small FT Money section which covers personal finance (rather than companies and markets). It often has articles which are relevant to one’s current or future circumstances, or cover aspects that a friend might find helpful. I was shocked to read on Saturday that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs had purportedly sent out scamming texts and emails and made phone calls to 900,000 people – who had reported them – over the last year. Sounds to me that there could be an awful lot more.
Now, I know most of us think we’re clever and have, over the years, learnt to spot phishing and bogus pleas for loans for good causes. But this is criminal work on a vast scale. Of those who had contacted HMRC about suspicious behaviour, 620,000 were tempted by a tax rebate with banking and personal details to be entered into an identikit website look-alike. Nastier were the 100,000 phone calls threatening victims with arrest unless immediate tax demands were met; I’ve received a message like this in the last 12 months.
I have a feeling that perhaps the crooks might be targeting sole traders, the self-employed and small businesses because they probably don’t have the resources to pay for the advice they need – and phoning HMRC is a thankless task. The tax authority says: ‘’Customers (yes, I kid you not, I’m a customer as far as they’re concerned!) should never give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in texts or emails which they are not expecting’’.
I write this now, and they too are currently highlighting the issue, as the tax deadline on January 31st looms, when so many are rushed, frazzled and fearful. I’m also aware that many STA members are in my boat, self-employed, running small research houses and dealing with their own investments on which they must pay tax.
If you suspect you’ve been scammed, this is their dedicated helpline: Phishing@nullhmrc.gov.uk
If you’ve lost money should contact Action Fraud http://www.actionfraud.org.uk/report_fraud/