Tax Refund Scams: Avoid Falling Victim

Click on the image of the concerned middle aged man checking his smart phone to connect to the blogpost - Tax Refund Scams

We may earn a small fee from the companies mentioned in this post.

As tax season approaches, so do the scammers, eyeing your eagerly awaited tax refunds. Within this article we explore the dark world of tax refund scams. With scammers employing increasingly cunning tactics, it’s crucial to arm yourself with knowledge and tools to protect your finances. This guide focuses on the latest tax scam and provides you with the knowledge you need to protect your data and finances from scammers.

Key Takeaways

Common Tax Refund Scams

  • Email and Text Scams: Fraudulent messages that appear to be from HMRC, offering a tax refund and requesting personal details
  • Phone Scams: Calls demanding payment of a bogus tax bill or offering a refund in exchange for personal information
  • Social Media Scams: Direct messages on social platforms falsely offering tax refunds
  • Refund Companies: Firms that claim to offer tax refund services for a fee but are not affiliated with HMRC

How to Avoid Tax Refund Scams

  • Verify Communications: Genuine HMRC correspondence will address you by name and never ask for sensitive information like bank details or passwords
  • Avoid Clicking Links: Do not click on links or download attachments from unexpected emails or texts
  • Check for Authenticity: HMRC will only inform you about tax refunds through the post or via your employer, not through emails or texts
  • Report Suspicious Messages: Forward dubious emails to and texts to 60599

What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed

  • Contact Your Bank: If you’ve disclosed financial details, contact your bank immediately to secure your accounts
  • Report to Authorities: Notify Action Fraud and use HMRC’s online form to report the scam
  • Stay Informed: Keep up to date with the latest scam tactics and how to protect yourself

How do HMRC legitimatly communicate with taxpayers

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) communicates with taxpayers through various methods, including email, to inform them about tax refunds and other tax-related matters. However, it’s crucial to recognise that HMRC exercises caution to protect taxpayers’ personal and financial information. Here’s how HMRC may inform you about a tax refund and the precautions they take:

  1. Email Communication: HMRC may use the email address you have provided to send notifications. However, these emails will never directly ask for personal or financial information. Instead, HMRC advises taxpayers to log into their online tax account to check for any updates or actions required regarding their tax situation.
  2. Genuine Contact Verification: HMRC provides guidance on how to verify the authenticity of communications received. For instance, genuine HMRC emails will not request personal or financial details directly. Taxpayers are encouraged to log into their official online account for any sensitive actions.
  3. Consent for Email Correspondence: If you prefer email communication, HMRC requires your explicit consent due to the inherent security risks of email. This consent includes acknowledgment of these risks and agreement to receive financial information via email. HMRC also outlines measures to mitigate these risks, such as desensitising information and using encryption.
  4. Refund Processing Time: While specific details about the notification process for tax refunds are not directly mentioned, HMRC aims to issue repayments within a certain timeframe after a request is submitted. However, actual receipt times can vary.
  5. Government Communication Standards: HMRC, like other government entities, adheres to standards for managing and practicing government communication. These standards ensure that information is accessible, inclusive, and delivered in a manner that supports the effective delivery of policies and priorities.

In summary, HMRC may inform you about a tax refund through email, but with strict protocols to ensure the security of your personal and financial information. Emails from HMRC will guide you to check your online tax account for detailed information rather than asking for sensitive details directly. Always verify the authenticity of any communication claiming to be from HMRC and report suspicious contacts through the official channels provided.

Understanding Tax Refund Scams

Illustration of a person receiving a suspicious phone call about tax refunds - Depictio of Tax Refund Scams

Tax refund scams, a dangerous breed of tax scams, prey on unsuspecting individuals. Whether it’s through email phishing schemes, phone call impersonations, or bogus tax consultants, these scams operate on deception and fear. They impersonate tax authorities, use threatening language, and request personal information to commit fraud or steal money, often targeting those expecting tax refunds.

What exactly do these scams entail, and what common scams should you look out for?

Email phishing schemes

Email phishing schemes are one of the most common types of tax refund scams. These various phishing scams masterfully mimic official tax communications, with emails containing urgent subject lines about tax bills or return errors.

They create a sense of urgency, misleading victims into visiting fraudulent websites or opening hazardous attachments. With one click, victims can unknowingly install malware, ransomware or divulge their credit card and personal details to the fraudsters.

Phone call impersonations

Phone scam artists are masters of manipulation, employing various phone scam technques to deceive their victims. They impersonate tax officials and use high-pressure tactics to trick victims into sending money or revealing personal information.

Threats of arrest, deportation, or license revocation are often used to create a sense of panic. To make matters worse, these fraudsters employ a range of communication tricks, including spoofed HMRC phone numbers and automated text messages too, to seem more convincing.

Remember the golden rule: HMRC never initiates unanticipated calls about tax rebates or dues, nor issues immediate legal threats. If you get such a call, it’s likely a scam. Disconnect instantly and alert the authorities.

Bogus tax consultants

Bogus tax consultants are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They promise bigger refunds than competitors by making false claims, such as inflated expenses or tax deductions. They even encourage clients to provide misleading information to claim fake tax rebates. Unfortunately for customers, their fraudulent activities, including offering fake tax rebates, only become apparent after they’ve disappeared post-tax season, leaving victims to deal with the aftermath.

Although the HMRC has taken legal action against these fraudulent consultants, the victims often face legal complications, financial losses, and an increased risk of identity theft. Hence, be cautious of consultants who calculate fees based on the refund amount or propose refund anticipation loans, as these are potential fraud indicators.

How to Recognise a Tax Refund Scam

Illustration of a person receiving a suspicious email about tax refunds - Depiction of Tax Refund Scams

Recognising a potential tax refund scam can be the first step in safeguarding your money. Whether it’s an unusual communication method, threatening language, or requests for personal or payment information, if it meets any of these criteria, its potentially a scam. We’ll examine these categories further to help you identify the warning signs more effectively.

Unusual communication methods

Scammers often exploit unusual communication methods to deceive victims. One common approach is through email or text message that appear to be from the HMRC. These communications frequently ask for personal or financial details, a tactic that the HMRC tax authority does not employ. HMRC may use email and text message to distribute digital resources or send reminders, but they never solicit sensitive, personal or payment information.

Phishing emails are particularly dangerous. They impersonate tax authorities to steal money or trick individuals into revealing their personal information or payment information, that can include:

  • Name

  • Address

  • Date of birth

  • Bank and credit card details

These scam emails can even lead to the installation of malware or ransomware from email attachments, putting your devices and data at risk.

Threatening language and urgent demands

Scammers are skilled manipulators, frequently employing intimidating language and fabricating urgency to compel victims into acting hastily. For example, fake HMRC texts may suggest that you may be arrested if you do not comply immediately with payment demands. However, the HMRC will never leave a voicemail threatening legal action or arrest, and they will not ask for personal or financial information through email or text message.

Scammers may also create urgency in their emails or text messages, indicating that immediate action is required to receive a tax refund. They may imply that providing credit card details is necessary to receive a payment, a red flag since tax authorities issue refunds directly to bank accounts or via cheques. So, if a communication rushes you, threatens you, asks for personal credit card information, or offers a refund, tax rebate, or grant, it’s probably a tax scam.

Requests for unconventional payment methods

Fraudsters commonly ask for unusual payment forms like gift cards or payment vouchers, which HMRC would never demand for tax obligations. Scammers, on the other hand, may demand tax payments using these unconventional approaches, which are never used by legitimate tax authorities.

So, if you ever receive a request for payment through these means, it’s probably a scam.

Learn how to detect HMRC scam calls, read our informative article and protect your finances.

Protecting Yourself from Tax Refund Scams

Illustration of a person verifying tax communications - Depiction of Tax Refund Scams

While recognising tax refund scams is crucial, the next step is learning how to protect yourself effectively. This involves verifying the source of communications, securing your devices, and filing taxes early.

We’ll examine these preventive measures more thoroughly.

Verify the source

Verifying the source of tax communications is a critical step in protecting yourself from scams. Genuine HMRC contact and send emails can be verified by:

  • Checking a list of authentic HMRC communications and campaigns

  • Avoiding clicking on any links or opening attachments in emails purporting to offer a tax refund or requesting personal or payment data

  • Reporting suspicious emails to the HMRC security team or Action Fraud

If you receive a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from HMRC, hang up and look up the direct number for HMRC online to verify the caller’s identity. For tax-related phone calls where the caller instructs pressing keys or issuing threats, HMRC advises hanging up immediately. Scammers may use non-standard communication methods such as social media or text messages, which are not typically used by legitimate tax authorities.

Always remember, if it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.

Secure your devices

Another vital step in guarding against tax refund scams is ensuring the security of your devices. This includes:

  • Installing antivirus and antispyware packages

  • Enabling firewalls

  • Updating your operating system, apps, and browsers regularly

  • Encrypting your sensitive data

  • Using VPNs to encrypt web traffic

  • Utilising encrypted services when sharing tax documents

These measures will enhance security and protect against potential scams.

Furthermore, here are some steps you can take to enhance your online security:

  1. Create strong, complex passwords for all devices and services.

  2. Implement two-factor authentication as a second layer of defence against unauthorised access.

  3. Configure your router settings with strong passwords and Wi-Fi encryption.

  4. Opt for more secure passcodes on mobile devices.

  5. Disable autocomplete to maintain robust access controls.

By following these steps, you can significantly improve your online security.

Limit your exposure to risks by turning off Bluetooth when not in use, regularly clearing browsing data, and shutting down machines to break potential hacker connections.

You may find our easy to read guide on staying safe online useful, click here to access the informative article.

File taxes early

Submitting your taxes early is a straightforward and efficient method to safeguard against tax refund scams. Scammers can only file a fraudulent return in your name if you haven’t filed yet. By filing taxes early, you can beat them to the punch and prevent them from submitting a fraudulent tax return in your name.

Elderly couple holding laptop looking at screen trying complete a tax return online

Employers are required to send out necessary tax documents by January 31. This gives you ample time to file your taxes promptly and evade tax refund fraud. So, don’t wait for the deadline to file your taxes; play it smart and file early.

What to Do If You’ve Been Targeted by a Tax Refund Scam

Even the most vigilant individuals can fall prey to tax refund scams. But don’t despair. If you’ve been targeted by a tax refund scam, there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage, including reporting the incident, monitoring your accounts, and implementing identity theft protection measures.

Report the incident

Promptly reporting the incident is crucial if you become a victim of a tax refund scam. You can report it to Action Fraud on their official website or call their hotline. HMRC provides a link to a suspicious phone call reporting form for individuals to report details of scam calls related to hmrc tax refund, such details as the date, the number used, and the content of the conversation.

Suspicious tax communications, including texts and phishing emails, should be reported directly to the HMRC security team or to Action Fraud.

In cases of financial loss or identity theft, report the incident to the local police for an official record and consider informing Action Fraud for additional support.

Monitor your accounts

Regular scrutiny of your bank account and credit card statements for unfamiliar transactions can aid in early detection of fraudulent activity. It’s vital to monitor your accounts and credit reports for any unauthorised transactions or the opening of new accounts without your consent.

Setting up transaction alerts with your bank or credit card company can also be beneficial, as you’ll be immediately notified of any activity in your accounts. Additionally, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service that can alert you to any changes in your credit report, which may indicate fraudulent activity.

Implement identity theft protection measures

Adopting measures to guard against identity theft can bolster your security. You can place a credit freeze on your credit account to prevent scammers or other criminals from opening new bank accounts in your name. All you need to do is directly contact each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, to set up a credit freeze.

High angle view of padlock with keys near notebooks and computers mouse in office

Placing a fraud alert on your credit account can also help. This will require businesses to verify your identity before issuing credit, thus impeding identity thieves from opening more accounts in your name. You can do this by contacting just one of the three credit bureaus.

We have written an informative article on what to do if you become a victim of indentity theft, click here to access the article.


In conclusion, tax refund scams are a serious threat but they can be avoided through awareness, vigilance, and proactive measures. By understanding the various types of tax rebate scams and recognising the red flags, you can protect yourself and prevent becoming a victim.

By securing your devices, to choosing a reputable tax professional, every step counts. Remember, the best defence against tax refund scams is a strong offence. Stay informed, stay safe, and let’s turn the tables on these scam artists.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the tax refund company genuine?

No, tax refund organisations are not officially approved by HMRC, even if they are registered for money laundering purposes and to act on your behalf. Always be cautious when dealing with such organisations.

How do HMRC tell you about tax refund?

HMRC typically informs individuals about tax refunds through a letter or an email.

What should I do if I’ve been targeted by a tax refund scam?

You should report the incident to your local police, Action Fraud, your bank and HMRC. You should also monitor your accounts regularly to protect your finances and yourself from identity theft.

How can I choose a reputable tax professional?

To choose a reputable tax professional, verify their credentials, seek referrals, and understand their fees and services. These steps will help you make an informed decision and find a trustworthy professional.

What are the warning signs of tax scams?

Here are the warning signs to look out for:

Unexpected Contact: Genuine HMRC communication will not rush or threaten you, and it will address you by name. Be wary of unexpected requests for personal information
Texts: HMRC will never text you about a tax refund. Any such messages are scams. Do not click on links or download attachments from these messages
Phone Calls: If you receive a call demanding payment or offering a refund in exchange for personal information, it’s a scam. HMRC will never threaten arrest or legal action in a voicemail
Social Media and WhatsApp: HMRC does not offer tax refunds through social media messages or WhatsApp. Any such direct messages are fraudulent
Payment Methods: Be suspicious if you’re asked to pay with gift or payment vouchers, or to transfer money. HMRC will never use these payment methods

What to do if you get an unexpected tax refund?

If you receive an unexpected tax refund, it’s important to be cautious as it could be a sign of a scam.

Here’s what you should do:

Do Not Respond: If you receive an email, text message, or phone call about the refund, do not provide any personal information or click on any links
Verify the Refund: Contact HMRC directly using the official contact details found on the website to confirm whether the refund is legitimate
Check for Official Communication: HMRC usually informs about tax refunds through the post or via your employer, not through emails or texts
Report Suspicious Activity: If you suspect a scam, report it to HMRC by forwarding dubious emails to and texts to 60599
Consult the Official HMRC Website: Use the official HMRC website to check how to claim a tax refund and follow the provided steps

Useful Reference Websites

  1. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) – The official government website for tax and customs. HMRC provides guidance on how to recognize, avoid, and report tax scams, including those related to tax refunds.
  2. Action Fraud – The UK’s national reporting center for fraud and cybercrime. Offers advice on how to spot and report scams, including tax refund frauds.
  3. Citizens Advice – Provides free, confidential information and advice to assist people with legal, debt, consumer, housing, and other problems, including advice on avoiding and reporting scams.
  4. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – Offers information on financial scams, including how to avoid pension and investment scams, which can sometimes be linked to tax refund schemes.
  5. National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – Provides advice on how to protect yourself from cyber-related scams, including phishing attempts that can lead to tax refund fraud.
  6. Age UK – Offers advice specifically aimed at older adults, who can be more vulnerable to scams, including tax refund scams.
  7. Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) – Provides consumer protection information and advice, including how to report scams and get help.
Website | + posts

With over three decades of experience in the heart of London’s financial sector, I have dedicated my career to the pursuit of robust cybersecurity practices and IT leadership. As a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Chief Information Security Officer (C|CISO), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI), I bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table.

My journey in the field of cybersecurity has not only been about personal growth but also about sharing my insights with others. As an international speaker, I have had the privilege of addressing audiences worldwide, discussing the importance of cybersecurity in today’s digital age. My passion for knowledge sharing extends to my work as an author and blogger, where I delve into the complexities of cybersecurity, offering practical advice and thought leadership.

In my role as a CISO and Head of IT, I have overseen the development and implementation of comprehensive information security and IT strategies. My focus has always been on creating resilient systems capable of withstanding the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

My Master’s degree in Cybersecurity has provided a solid academic foundation, which, when combined with my practical experience, allows me to approach cybersecurity from a holistic perspective.

I am always open to connecting with other professionals in the field, sharing knowledge, and exploring new opportunities. Let’s secure the digital world together.