Millions Targeted With Phishing Emails From Tax Scammers

More than 2.5 million British taxpayers have reported that scammers posing as tax officials have tried to steal their cash and personal identities during the past three years.

Fraudsters have mainly tried to infiltrate their online security with phishing emails and telephone cold-calling, says think tank Parliament Street.

In total, taxpayers have reported more than 2.6 million scam attempts since 2016.

The highest number was in 2016-17, when 922,000 phishing attempts were tried, compared to 783,000 in 2017-18 and 898,888 in 2018-19.

Scammers seem to favour phishing emails, which accounted for 1.95 million of all reported fraud attempts.

Millions of messages stopped

This flood of emails was despite HM Revenue & Customs introducing an email verification system that stopped another 500 million emails reaching taxpayers.

Text messaging was the second most popular scam, with 150,000 reports – but the data collected by the think tank from HMRC suggests this is on the decline – dropping by nearly half since 2016.

Cold calling is a bid to harvest personal and financial details has surged – from 407 in 2016-17 to almost 105,000 reports in 2018-19

The reports explains working out how many taxpayers have succumbed to phishing bids is difficult as many are too embarrassed to admit they are fraud victims.

Although the data suggests 19,000 taxpayers giving their personal details to scammers over the past three years, numbers are falling with 10,650 reported in 2016-17.

How to report a tax scam

Phishing scams are messages from fraudsters to try and trick someone into handing over personal and financial information.

Some sophisticated scams involve setting up bogus web sites to record password and PIN keystrokes.

HMRC says taxpayers never get an email, text message or phone call from them which tells you discusses a tax rebate or penalty or asks for your personal or payment information.

The tax authority has a dedicated phishing task force to tackle scams.

Taxpayers can report a suspicious message by:

  • text message (forward it to 60599 – you’ll be charged at your network rate)
  • an email to

If you receive a suspicious phone call, you can help HMRC’s investigations by providing:

  • your phone number
  • the caller’s phone number
  • the time and date of the call
  • a brief description of the call

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