In the run-up to the 31 July renewals deadline for tax credits, HMRC has warned that fraudsters are targeting claimants with scam emails, fake websites, and text messages.

The warning comes as in the 12 months to April 2022, HMRC dealt with nearly 277,000 referrals of suspicious contact received from the public.

However, this is significantly less than the 1,154,300 referrals that HMRC received in the lead up to April 2021 and was ‘likely due’ to the higher prevalence of the Covid-19 support schemes.

The tax authority expects around 2.1m tax credits users to renew their annual claims by 31 July 2022 and has issued the warning to remind people about the tactics used by criminals who mimic government messages to make them appear authentic.

The tax authority has also restated that it does not charge tax credits users to renew their annual claims and is urging users to be alert to misleading websites or adverts designed to make them pay for government services that should be free, often charging for a connection to HMRC phone helplines.

HMRC also reiterated that they will not call anyone ‘out of the blue’ as fraudsters use phone calls, text messages and emails to try and dupe individuals, often trying to rush them to make decisions.

The typical style that the scammers use to imitate HMRC includes making phone calls threatening arrest if people do not immediately pay a fictitious tax bill owed or claiming that the victim’s national insurance number has been used fraudulently.

Scammers will also use emails or texts to offer fake tax rebates or Covid-19 grants, they may also claim that a direct debit payment has failed.

HMRC’s cyber security operation team identifies and closes down scams every day. The department has pioneered the use in government of technical controls to stop its helpline numbers being spoofed, so that fraudsters can no longer make it appear that they are calling from those HMRC numbers.

Myrtle Lloyd, director general for customer services, HMRC said: ‘We are urging all of our customers to be really careful if they are contacted out of the blue by someone asking for money or bank details.

‘There are a lot of scams out there where fraudsters are calling, texting, or emailing customers claiming to be from HMRC. If you have any doubts, we suggest you do not reply directly, and contact us straight away. Search for our ‘scams checklist’ and to find out how to report tax scams’.