We are sharing this update from ACCA, our professional body, for the interest of clients and contacts. The content is (c) ACCA

How to protect yourself from fraudulent calls allegedly from HMRC

In today’s digital age, where scams and fraud attempts are becoming increasingly sophisticated, it’s crucial to remain vigilant, especially when it comes to unsolicited telephone calls.

A common scenario where both individuals and businesses need to be cautious is when receiving calls claiming to be from HMRC.

A business recently reported an incident where, after completing a VAT registration process, they received a call from an individual claiming to represent HMRC. During the call, the caller requested the businsss’s ‘security code’.

ACCA has reached out to HMRC for comments, and it emphasised that while HMRC does occasionally need to contact taxpayers for valid reasons, it is crucial to differentiate between genuine calls and fraudulent ones.

HMRC has stated that:

In the course of processing VAT registrations, we do sometimes need to make outbound calls to customers to verify their identity. However, this would be against information we already hold across HMRC systems and if the applicant wasn’t able to meet the identity verification requirements within the VAT registration online service.   

We may also make calls to gather in further information around the nature of the business to ensure it satisfies the requirements to be registered in the UK.  On such occasions, to check we are speaking to the correct person, we would ask them questions obtained from their registration, for example post code or date of birth. 

We wouldn’t ask for a security code and VAT registration colleagues are not familiar with that terminology in relation to an application.

To protect yourself and your business from falling victim to fraudulent calls, here are some essential tips:

  1. Be sceptical of unsolicited calls: If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from HMRC out of the blue, approach it with caution. Take the time to verify the caller’s identity before divulging any sensitive information.
  2. Ask for official verification: If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of a call, ask the caller for official information, such as their name, department and contact details. You can then independently verify this information by contacting HMRC through their official channels.
  3. Do not share security codes: Under no circumstances should you share security codes, passwords, or other sensitive information over the phone. HMRC will never ask for this information during a telephone call.
  4. Stay informed: Keep yourself updated on common scam tactics and stay informed about how HMRC typically communicates with taxpayers. Being aware of potential risks can help you spot fraudulent calls more easily.
  5. Report suspicious activity: If you believe you have received a fraudulent call or have fallen victim to a scam, report it to HMRC immediately, to help prevent others from being targeted.

If you got:

By staying vigilant and following these guidelines, you can protect yourself and your business from falling victim to fraudulent HMRC calls. Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to sharing sensitive information over the phone.