HMRC warns fraudsters are targeting tax credit renewals
Individuals renewing tax credits ahead of the 31 July deadline have been urged to watch out for scammers targeting them.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned that fraudsters are using scam emails, fake websites and text messages in a bid to dupe claimants.
Messages purporting to be sent from a "Tax Credit Office Agent" offering a tax refund - and including a link to a fake version of the Gov.uk website - are among the fraudulent tactics used.
HMRC said some claimants had received unsolicited correspondence from criminals asking them to hand over bank details or other personal details, including passwords.
The motive is simple - to try to steal money from victims' accounts or to sell their identities to other fraudsters.
In the four months leading up to last year's tax credit renewal deadline, 51,000 phishing emails were reported to HMRC. This was more than double the number received a year earlier.
In 2014, HMRC was able to successfully close down almost 9,000 scam websites.
Nick Lodge, director general of benefits and credits at HMRC, said: "HMRC will never ask people to disclose personal information by email. We have cracked down on phishing emails and scam websites, but the fraudsters' methods are constantly changing, so people must remain vigilant.
"The only way to renew tax credits and report changes online is on Gov.uk."
The genuine website for renewing a tax credits claim is gov.uk/renewtaxcredits and the helpline is available on 0345 300 3900.
Phishing scams are typically fraudulent email messages from seemingly legitimate sources (your internet service provider, mobile phone provider, bank etc). These messages usually direct you to a counterfeit website or ask you to divulge private information (password, PIN, credit card numbers, or other account updates), which is then used to commit identity theft.