Taxpayers can expect to be hit by a slew of scam messages purporting to offer refunds over the coming weeks.
HM Revenue & Customs warns that the scammers tend to hit every spring because they know tens of thousands of taxpayers are sent their self-assessment refunds at this time of year.
Investigators expect taxpayers to pick up 2,500 scam messages a day and to report 250,000 fraud attempts.
Last year, HMRC took 6,000 phishing web sites offline following scam reports.
High on the list of targets this year are taxpayers at opposite ends of the spectrum – young adults new to self-assessment and the elderly.
Fake web sites
HMRC explained that taxpayers are blitzed in May and with refund scams by email and text posing as from the tax office.
The crooks ask for bank details with the promise of making a payment for hundreds of pounds, which is bogus but which they hope taxpayers will confuse with genuine correspondence with HMRC.
Often, the fraudsters set up a fake web site that is identical to HMRC online and ask victims to enter personal data.
HMRC head of customer services Angela MacDonald said: “We are determined to protect honest people from these fraudsters who will stop at nothing to make their phishing scams appear legitimate.
“HMRC is currently shutting down hundreds of phishing sites a month. If you receive one of these emails or texts, don’t respond and report it to HMRC so that more online criminals are stopped in their tracks.”
How to deal with scam tax refund messages
HMRC confirms that staff will never ask for security data, so taxpayers should not divulge PIN numbers, passwords or other personal information in response to an email or text.
Official scam alert web site Action Fraud suggests forwarding suspicious emails and details of suspicious calls claiming to be from HMRC to email@example.com and texts to 60599
“If you have suffered financial loss contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use the online fraud reporting tool,” said head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith: “These criminals will contact victims in many ways including spoofed calls, voicemails and text messages.
“People should spot the signs of fraud and be wary of emails with attachments which might contain viruses designed to obtain personal or financial information.”