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Tax Tips - June 2017

Don’t let it happen to you!

Scammers have become more sophisticated in their bid to part us from our cash. From email scams and copycat websites to nuisance calls and tax rebate scams, we need our wits about us.

What is a Scam? A Scam is a term used to describe a fraudulent business or scheme that takes money or goods from an unsuspecting person. With the world becoming more connected thanks to the internet, and organizations keen to promote digital contact, we are becoming more and more exposed to the possibility of being targeted. Cybercriminals have become quite savvy in their attempts to lure people in and get you to click on a link or open an attachment. The email they send can look just like it comes from a financial institution, e-commerce site, government agency or any other service or business.

Phishing (pronounced like fishing) is another term that is used to describe a malicious individual or group of individuals who scam users. They do so by sending e-mails or creating web pages that are designed to collect an individual's online bank, credit card, or other login information. Because these e-mails and web pages look like legitimate companies, users trust them and enter their personal information.

How to spot a phone Scam or a phishing email.

  1. Contacted out of the blue? If you're not 100% convinced of the identity of the caller, hang up and contact the company from a different phone. 
  2. Deal too good to be true? If a deal is too good to be true, it inevitably is.
  3. Asked to share personal details? Never share your personal details with anyone you cannot validate and confirm that they are who they say they are. Phishing emails or phone scammers will often try to get valuable personal data from you, and they can use this to steal your identity or steal your money. 
  4. Under pressure to respond quickly? Scammers will often try to hurry your decision making by requesting an urgent response or giving a deadline to be met. Always take some time and think things through.
  5. Vague contact details? Vague contact details can be a PO Box and premium rate numbers (starting ‘09’) or a mobile number. 
  6. Spelling and grammar? Legitimate organisations will rarely, if ever, make glaring grammatical or spelling mistakes, and if they do, it will usually be an isolated incident. Scammers often use bad grammar and spelling to ensure that only the most vulnerable people will respond to their messages.
  7. Asked to keep it quiet? Being asked to keep something quiet should be a red flag. It's important to discuss any agreements with your friends, family or independent advisers.

To stay safe don’t give out private information (such as bank details or passwords), reply to text messages, download attachments or click on any links in emails if you’re not sure they’re genuine.

One of the organizations that scammers typically seem to impersonate is HMRC. HMRC NEVER send notifications of a tax rebate/refund by email, or ask you to disclose personal or payment information by email. Do not visit any website contained within a bogus email or disclose any personal or payment information. If you've had an HMRC email or text message you suspect isn't genuine report it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

If you are still concerned about a contact or your personal information, contact the organization directly, by finding their bona fide e-mail address or telephone number.

Action Fraud is the UK’s national fraud and crime reporting centre. It provides a central point of contact about fraud and financially motivated internet crime. It offers an online reporting tool at www.actionfraud.police.uk or you can call and speak to an adviser on 0300 123 2040.​

This article is by Tax Help for Older People registered charity no 1102276, offering free tax advice to older people on incomes below £20,000 a year. The Helpline number is 0845 601 3321 or geographical 01308 488066.