HMRC scams

Financial-Expert
Financial-Expert

Article by Phil

We’ve been looking at scams for some time now. Identifying the more common ones and publishing the information to try to get the details out into the public arena.

If you look at our posts we’ve particularly looked at rules to apply when you get contacted either by e mail or text. The general rule being don’t reply. Call the company yourself and ask to speak to someone about your account. Never click a link inside a text or e mail.

So, we were very surprised to find out that HMRC have decided to send out text communications to over three million people to claim the next instalment of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme Grant related to the Coronavirus support package. It seems the texts which are being sent out cold (in that they’ve not sent texts before) also include links to click to move into the application phase. This seems quite startling given the current incidence of online fraud in the financial service market.

In its defence HMRC says it has published a 14-page document (online) which explains when they might send a text or email, what they might look like and why they are sending them. It seems that HMRC think that its reasonable for the three million self-employed contacts to first read this document before acting on the e mail. You are also recommended to call the HMRC helpline on 0300 200 3300 to confirm that you’ve received a genuine text.

You really couldn’t make it up.

Our advice is still to ignore any text or e mails purporting to be from HMRC.

The simple answer is for HMRC to send the information out in letter form. They already send most requests and notifications, demands etc in the post, so why not these latest notifications?

It seems to play into the hands of scammers, who have no doubt all read the HMRC online document to get some tips on how to make their e mails and text look more like the real thing!

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On the same lines, Aviva and Citibank have just released information about an e mail scam from a “clone” firm purporting to be from them. The scam e mail offers a Mini Bond advertising a 6.12% return. The scam claims that the rate is only available of a “first come first served” basis. As we know this is one of the classic scam techniques – a time limited offer.

It seems that this is a sophisticated “clone” scam with a professional looking website and portal, using realistic branding. But as we’ve highlighted before look at the URL address and the real source will be revealed. Both Aviva and Citibank have reported the scam and put warnings up on their websites. Let’s see what the Police and FCA can do to get this website taken down. In the meantime, please beware.

It’s also worth noting that the vast majority (over 96%) of APP (Authorised Push Payment) scams originate through e mails rather than texts or phone calls.

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A little of bit of good news has just come to light though.

It seems that the FCA has been in dialogue with the main Social Media companies to put them on notice that they will be held responsible for financial services advertisements going forwards. This has been made possible since leaving the EU, which previously prevented Social Media companies being responsible for their advertisers.

However, since leaving the EU we are now back under the regulations in the Financial Services and Markets Act. Those regulations require financial promotions to be made by companies who are authorised by the FCA. That has given the FCA the ability to make Social Media companies responsible for checking that adverts for financial promotions are being made by authorised firms only. It seems that they have acknowledged the responsibility, so we should see things start to change.

The FCA had previously identified over 1200 unregulated adverts on Social Media platforms, all with the potential to cause harm to customers.

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