SELF ASSESSMENT customers should be alert to criminals claiming to be from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
As the department issues thousands of SMS messages and emails as part of its annual Self Assessment tax return push, HMRC is warning customers completing their returns to take care to avoid being caught out by scammers. The annual tax return deadline is on 31 January 2021.
The department knows that fraudsters use calls, emails or texts to contact customers. In the last 12 months, HMRC has responded to more than 846,000 referrals of suspicious HMRC contact from the public, and reported over 15,500 malicious web pages to internet service providers to be taken down. Almost 500,000 of the referrals from the public offered bogus tax rebates.
Many scams target customers to inform them of a fake ‘tax rebate’ or ‘tax refund’ they are due. The imposters use language intended to convince them to hand over personal information, including bank details, in order to claim the ‘refund’. Criminals will use this information to access customers’ bank accounts, trick them into paying fictitious tax bills, or sell on their personal information to other criminals.
HMRC’s Interim Director General for Customer Services, Karl Khan, said: “We know that criminals take advantage of the Self Assessment deadline to panic customers into sharing their personal or financial details and even paying bogus ‘tax due’.
“If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, offering financial help or asking for money, it might be a scam. Please take a moment to think before parting with any private information or money.”
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said: “Criminals are experts at impersonating organisations that we know and trust. We work closely with HMRC to raise awareness of current scams and encourage people to report any suspicious calls or messages they receive, even if they haven’t acted on them, to the relevant channels. This information is crucial in disrupting criminal activity and is already helping HMRC take down fraudulent websites being used to facilitate fraud.
“It’s important to remember if you’re contacted out the blue by someone purporting to be from HMRC asking for your personal or financial details, or offering you a tax rebate, grant or refund, this could be a scam. Do not respond, hang up the phone, and take care not to click on any links in unexpected emails or text messages. You should contact HMRC directly using a phone number you’ve used before to check if the communication you have received is genuine.
“If you’ve been the victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and please report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.”
Customers can report suspicious activity to HMRC at firstname.lastname@example.org and texts to 60599. They can also report phone scams online on GOV.UK.
HMRC is also warning the public to be aware of websites that charge for government services – such as call connection sites – that are in fact free or charged at local call rates. Other companies charge people for help getting ‘tax refunds’. One way to safely claim a tax refund for free is to log into your Personal Tax Account.
HMRC has a dedicated Customer Protection team that identifies and closes down scams but asks the public to recognise the signs to avoid becoming a victim. HMRC regularly publishes examples of new scams on GOV.UK to help customers recognise phishing emails and bogus contact by email, text or phone.
Ways to spot a tax scam
It could be a scam if it:
- is unexpected
- offers a refund, tax rebate or grant
- asks for personal information like bank details
- is threatening
- tells you to transfer money.
Self Assessment customers can complete their tax return online and help and support is available on GOV.UK.
To protect against identity fraud customers must verify their identity when accessing HMRC’s online services. They must have two sources of information including:
- credit reference agency data
- tax credits
- UK Passport
Two men jailed for ‘terrifying’ creeper burglaries in West Wales
TWO men have been sentenced to four years in prison for three creeper burglaries, including two at the homes of elderly female clients of a care agency where one of them worked.
Allyn Freeman, aged 33, of Bryn Wyre, Aberystwyth, and Daniel Bloomer, aged 23, of Heol Elynnydd, Devils Bridge, were sentenced after pleading guilty to all charges at Swansea Crown Court on Wednesday, December 2.
Following a protracted investigation by Dyfed-Powys Police, which involved extensive crime scene investigation work, as well as ANPR and digital enquiries such as mobile phone detection and CCTV, they admitted their parts in a series of dwelling creeper burglaries in the Aberystwyth area during 2018.
Police Sergeant Steven Jones said the burglaries had been terrifying for their victims.
“These creeper burglaries happened as the victims, all elderly women, slept,” he said. “Two disturbed Freeman and Bloomer, which must have been a terrifying ordeal.
“We’re pleased that our case was strong enough to make Freeman and Bloomer admit what they had done so justice could be handed down to them.”
During the early hours of Saturday, 10th February 2018, they entered the home of an elderly lady as she slept in the Cwmrheidol area of Aberystwyth.
She woke to find items were out of place in her home and found her bank cards and £70 in cash were missing from her purse and her mobile phone had been stolen.
Then 12 days later, on Thursday, 22nd February 2018, Freeman and Bloomer entered the home of another elderly lady in the Llanfarian area of Aberystwyth. The victim, who received support from the care agency where Bloomer worked, had been on a list of planned visits for him.
At approximately 5.30am, the victim was in bed when she saw a light flashing in her room and a person walking in wearing a black coat with a hood covering their face.
During the burglary, the victim’s handbag, which contained a number of items, including £100 to £200 in cash, a small gold-coloured cross pin and two cheque books, was stolen.
The following day, Friday, 23rd February 2018, another elderly woman, who had received support from the same agency, was burgled in the Penglais Hill area of Aberystwyth.
She was asleep when she was woken by a noise downstairs at approximately 4.30am.
She got out of bed and moved towards the bedroom door when she saw a torch light shine up the stairs and she believes that somebody took hold of her walking stick, which she was holding in front of her.
A male voice then asked her “where’s your handbag” before running away. It is not thought that anything was taken in this incident.
All victims were offered the help of burglary support officers at the force.
Freeman and Bloomer also admitted a burglary at Ysgol Mynach, Devils Bridge, on Saturday, 10th February 2018.
For conspiracy to commit dwelling burglary they were both sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, with a further year, to run concurrently, for conspiracy to commit commercial burglary, and a further month imprisonment, to run concurrently for conspiracy to steal.
Bloomer was also sentenced to serve an additional 6 months imprisonment, to run consecutively, for conspiring to pervert the course of justice after trying to persuade Freeman to provide an account to police that would exonerate Bloomer for the offences, and offered him financial reward to do so.
Ysgol Gynradd Dihewyd to close until 17 December 2020
YSGOL Gynradd Dihewyd will be closed until 17 December 2020. A Contact Group is already self-isolating for 14 days due to a positive COVID-19 case and due to lack of staffing, the whole school will close.
Pupils in the affected Contact Group have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days due to being close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case at the school. These pupils and staff must remain at home for 14 days to reduce the possible spread of the virus to family, friends and the wider community.
All parents have been contacted by the School to inform them that the school will be closed until 17 December 2020.
The Council urges all parents to refer their children for a test if they develop any of the symptoms, which are:
· a high temperature
· a new continuous cough
· a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.
Parents should also be aware of other symptoms early on, such as headaches, tiredness and general aches and pains usually associated with the flu.
You can apply for a test online https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test or by phoning 119.
No further details will be provided regarding this matter.
Vaccine plan unveiled for Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire
HYWEL DDA University Health Board is making final preparations to deliver its mass vaccination programme following Wednesday’s announcement that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been granted temporary authorisation for use.
There will only be small quantities of a vaccine at first due to the storage requirements of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
A Hywel Dda spokesperson said: “Priority groups for the initial supplies of this vaccine include front line health and social care staff with direct patient and client contact across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. We are continually reviewing our plans based on receipt of further supplies.
“We are ready to deploy the vaccine in phases when the vaccine arrives. Eligible front line health and social care staff will receive details of how they will receive the vaccination as soon as possible.
“Members of the public are asked to not contact their GP practice or community pharmacies to enquire about the vaccine at this time.”
Ros Jervis, director of public health for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Vaccination saves lives and Wednesday’s announcement is a truly significant moment.
“I’d like to personally thank everyone from organisations from across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire who, for the past few months, have worked tirelessly together to ensure we are ready to deliver this vaccine to protect our frontline staff and the clinically vulnerable in our community.
“Please do not contact your GP or pharmacist to apply for or ask for the vaccination. As soon as the vaccine is available for your eligible group, you will be informed and asked to make an appointment.”
In readiness, Hywel Dda UHB has established two vaccination centres for delivery of early supplies, one in Carmarthenshire and one in Ceredigion. Attendance at these centres is strictly prohibited without an appointment.
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