Are you at risk of tax fraud this Christmas?

Taxpayers are being urged to be on their guard this Christmas, after a new study revealed that the number of tax scams reported each month had jumped to 85,000.

The figures, highlighted by accountancy body ACCA, represent a marked increase from the 70,000 reports of tax fraud per month last year.

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at the ACCA, said ‘ordinary’ taxpayers are most at risk of fraud this Christmas – which could include contractors and freelancers.

Fraudsters are getting increasingly more sophisticated, with many targeting their victims via phone, text or email, purporting to be from an official organisation such as HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

In fact, phone scams now account for around 10 per cent of all tax scams in the UK.

So, how can unsuspecting taxpayers spot a fraudster and what can they do about it?

Most fraudsters rely on a technique known as ‘spoofing’ or ‘phishing’ to ensnare their victims. This involves tricking the victim into believing that the fraudster is contacting them from a genuine organisation. For example, the scam artist may manipulate their phone number to appear as though it is from the official HMRC call centre.

For all intents and purposes, the fraudster may look like the real deal.

But almost all of these scams have a weakness: under no circumstances are you required to entertain them.

If you feel that you may have a genuine issue or dispute with the tax office, always contact them directly using the email address or phone number provided on the official HMRC website.

A genuine advisor will never have a problem with you asking to phone them back. If they argue this point, it should raise an immediate red flag.

And, as Mr Roy-Chowdhury says: “It is a new world we live in when it comes to tax scams, don’t be a victim and do your own due diligence. Just a few simple checks to avoid being taken for a ride.”