HMRC has shared a number of fake tax refund emails and text messages in a bid to help the public spot a scam.

In this article, we'll look at each example and explain how to identify that it's from a criminal and not the taxman. 

Read more: Claims management firms 'selling data to scammers'

Phishing email and website

This is an example of a common phishing email sent out to try and trick you into giving away valuable personal information.

HMRC scam phishing email

The email contains a link that if clicked will take you to the second image (below), a fake HMRC website. Type any information into this website and you are giving it to the scammers.

HMRC email scam fake website

“We’ll never send notifications of a tax rebate or refund by email, or ask you to disclose personal payment information by email,” says HMRC.

“Don’t visit the website within the email or disclose any personal or payment information.”

You should also watch out for emails from these addresses, which have all been reported to HMRC for sending out phishing emails:

  • service.refund@hmrc.gov
  • secure@hmrc.co.uk
  • taxrefund-notice@hmrc.gov.uk
  • taxrefund@hmrc.gov.uk
  • refund-help@hmrc.gov.uk
  • refund.alert@hmrc.gov.uk
  • refunds@hmrc.gov.uk
  • rebate@hmrc.gov.uk
  • HM-Revenue-&-Customs@ztoro.com

Text messages

Criminals don’t just try to con you via your email, many people also receive text messages pretending to be from HMRC.

As with phishing emails, these text messages include a link to a fake website where they hope you’ll enter valuable personal information such as your bank details.

HMRC scam text

HMRC says that while they do occasionally send people text messages their texts will never ask you for personal or financial information.

“If you receive a text message claiming to be from HMRC offering a ‘tax refund’ in exchange for personal or financial details you should not respond,” says HMRC. “Don’t open any links contained within the message."

If you receive a text that you believe to be a scam you should forward it to 60599 (network charges apply) or email phising@hmrc.gasi.gov.uk so that HMRC can investigate.

PDF Attachments

Some phishing emails don’t try and get you to click on a link within the email. Instead, they tell you that you need to download a PDF attachment so that you can claim your tax refund.

But, the attachment contains a link to a phishing website.

HMRC scam PDF attachment

Social media

Another way that fraudsters may try to contact you is via social media. This involves you receiving a direct message on Facebook or Twitter saying that you are owed a tax refund.

HMRC point out that if it needed to get in touch with you to organise a rebate or confirm your personal or financial information they wouldn’t do it via social media.

“If you can’t verify the identity of the social media account, we recommend that you don’t engage with it and report details to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk,” says HMRC.

HMRC social media scam

Export clearance process emails (aka '419 scams')

The final scam that HMRC has released an image of is a ‘419 scam’. This is where you receive an email saying that something meant for you is being held as a payment is needed.

It could be goods or a package that the fraudsters say has been seized by customs, prize money or an inheritance payment.

To make these emails seem more genuine they may be signed off with the name of a real HMRC member of staff.

If you are in any doubt about the authenticity of an email HMRC state that you should forward it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk for verification.

More on scams and how to avoid them

HMRC 419 export clearance process emails