HMRC has issued a warning to those who file self-assessment tax returns saying to be alert to criminals claiming to be from the organisation, as the return deadline of 31 January 2021 nears.

In the last year, HMRC responded to over 846,000 referrals of suspicious HMRC contact from the public, and reported over 15,500 malicious web pages to internet service providers to be taken down.

Almost 500,000 of the referrals from the public were offers of fraudulent tax rebates.

The tax authority said the criminals use language intended to convince them to hand over personal information, including bank details, in order to claim the refund. It is also warning the public to be aware of websites that charge for government services.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said:

“Criminals are experts at impersonating organisations that we know and trust. We work closely with HMRC to raise awareness of current scams and encourage people to report any suspicious calls or messages they receive, even if they haven’t acted on them, to the relevant channels.

“This information is crucial in disrupting criminal activity and is already helping HMRC take down fraudulent websites being used to facilitate fraud.”

Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, and report suspicious activity to HMRC.