April Fool’s Day is passed but you could still get scammed

April Fool’s Day, a time of jokes and jests, may have been and gone… 

But it just so happens that April Fool’s Day falls just before the start of the new tax year (6 April) when numerous businesses will be targeted by tax avoidance scams, phishing attempts and phoney communications from criminals masquerading as HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). 

You and your business need to be hyper-aware around this time and pay attention to the guidance released by HMRC that outlines common scams played on businesses this month. 

Common scams we see around tax year-end  

Over the years, we’ve seen some recurring scams that target both individual finances and businesses. 

Here are some of the most common ones: 

  • COVID-19-related scams include texts offering HMRC tax refunds. 
  • Email scams about tax rebates 
  • Automated phone call scams that claim HMRC is filing a lawsuit or offer a tax refund  
  • Social media and refund companies that impersonate HMRC to scam people  
  • Customs duty scams inform customers about a non-existent parcel requiring payment 

In all these instances, it’s important to never disclose personal or financial information about you or your business to sites or people that are claiming to be HMRC – unless you are absolutely sure you are speaking to the tax authority. 

(We’ll go over more in-depth scam avoidance advice below). 

Equally, you should report all instances of suspected scams directly to HMRC via their website.  

Our practical advice on avoiding scams 

One of the foundational steps in protecting yourself from scams is to educate your team about the nature of these scams.  

Regular training sessions that cover the latest scam techniques, including examples of phishing emails, suspicious calls, and texts, are crucial.  

It’s also important to share HMRC’s guidelines on their communication practices, such as what they will never ask for (e.g., personal or financial information via text or email, payment in gift or payment vouchers), to help employees recognise fraudulent attempts. 

Ensuring that all communications with HMRC or any financial institution are conducted through verified and secure channels is also essential.  

This includes verifying the authenticity of requests for information or payments and avoiding the sharing of sensitive information through unsecured or unfamiliar platforms.  

Implementing robust security measures can also significantly mitigate the risk of scams.  

This entails using encrypted connections and secure networks for business transactions, employing multi-factor authentication for sensitive accounts, and encouraging the regular update of strong, unique passwords among team members. 

Another key aspect of scam prevention is to actively monitor and report any suspicious activities to HMRC.  

Staying updated on the latest scam trends and sharing this information within the business can heighten overall awareness.  

Additionally, limiting the amount of personal and business information shared online and training employees on data privacy best practices can prevent the accidental dissemination of sensitive data. 

From a financial perspective, establishing internal controls to verify payment requests, especially those that are unusual or deviate from standard procedures, is important.  

Businesses should opt for secure, traceable methods for payments and steer clear of requests for payment through unconventional methods like gift cards or vouchers.  

So, in short: 

  • Conduct regular scam awareness training for all employees. 
  • Utilise secure, encrypted connections for all business transactions and communications. 
  • Implement multi-factor authentication for access to sensitive accounts. 
  • Report suspicious activities to HMRC to help combat scams. 
  • Establish internal controls for verifying and approving payment requests. 

Consulting with your financial adviser or accountant can also provide insights into the best practices for scam prevention and ensure that your business has adequate insurance coverage against fraud and cybercrime.  

By integrating these strategies, businesses can bolster their defences against the increasingly sophisticated and varied tactics used by scammers. 

For more information, please get in touch.  

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