HMRC: how to spot an online fraudster

The taxman tells customers how to spot an online fraudster in the run up to the online Self Assessment deadline.

It’s the time of year when HMRC sends out more than one million Self Assessment emails reminding customers of the fast approaching 31 January deadline for online returns.  It’s also the time of year that scammers see the opportunity to cash in on one of the most phished brands in the world – yes you’ve guessed it, HMRC.

Luckily HMRC has a strict yet easy to understand protocol in place that tells its customers what to expect when HMRC communicates with them via email.  And with 85% of all 2013/14 Self Assessments completed online, it’s incredibly important that HMRC does everything in its power to raise customer awareness on how to spot a fraudulent email.

What you need to look out for

The protocol states that emails sent by HMRC to customers will never contain or ask for the following information:

  • Personal or financial information of any kind; this includes the customer’s full address, full postcode, Unique Tax Reference (UTR), or any bank details
  • Financial information that refers to specific figures, tax computations or particular facts about a customer
  • Email attachments or web links
  • An offer of a repayment or refund
  • A request to send a response to a personal HMRC email address.

HMRC has also reminded its customers that they have a part to play in keeping their personal information secure by updating their web browser and anti-virus software to the latest versions, and keeping their passwords safe and changing them regularly.

Stay alert

Jonathan Lloyd White, Director of Security and Information and Departmental Security Officer (DSO), HMRC, said:

“We are committed to customers’ online security, but the methods that fraudsters use to get information are constantly changing, so people need to be alert. When using our online services, I would urge all our customers to be vigilant, and remember that HMRC will never send an email to ask for your personal information or password, or include a link or attachment. We want to help you stay safe online. Visit for more advice.”

Personal tax accounts

2016 has also seen HMRC start the year with the launch of the Personal Tax Account, which they’ll roll out during the coming months; this will give customers a safe and secure way to communicate with HMRC through messaging and web chat via their own Personal Tax Account.

If you’re worried about the legitimacy of an email you’ve received from HMRC, or would like general Self Assessment advice then please get in touch on 0141 345 2355 or email

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