HMRC warns charities about fraud after 1.5 million scams identified during pandemic

Charities are being warned to watch out for bogus tax rebate or refund requests after officials said they had identified about 1.5 million scams during the pandemic.

In a letter to the Charity Tax Group at the end of August, HM Revenue & Customs warned charities to be careful if they were contacted “out of the blue” by someone asking for money or personal information.

The letter says: “Criminals are usually trying to steal your money or your personal information to sell on to others.

“Links or files in emails or texts could also download dangerous software onto your machine or phone.”

The department said it has seen high numbers of fraudsters emailing, calling or texting people and organisations claiming to be from HMRC.

The Charity Commission issued a warning to charities in April last year and advised them to be on their guard against fraud and cyber crime during the pandemic.

The regulator said at the time that police had reported an increase in coronavirus-related scams.

HMRC said it has received more than one million referrals from the public about suspicious contact, nearly half offering bogus tax rebates or refunds over the past 12 months.

It said there had also been almost 442,000 reports of phone scams, which is a 117 per cent rise on the previous year.

In addition, more than 13,000 malicious web pages have been reported to HMRC for removal.

HMRC said charities should take a moment to think before parting with money or information, not give out private information or reply to unexpected text messages and avoid downloading attachments or clicking on links in unsolicited texts or emails.

The National Cyber Security Centre offers a range of advice on how to keep secure online here.

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