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Self Assessment customers warned about scammers posing as HMRC

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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 phishing@hmrc.gov.uk 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
  •       P60/payslip
  •       UK Passport
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Directory of services launched by Ceredigion’s Carers Unit as part of Carers Rights Day

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WHETHER you are a new carer or have been caring for someone for a while, it’s important that you understand your rights and you’re able to access the support that is available to you as soon as you need it. Wherever you are in your caring journey.

It is more important than ever that Carers look after their own health and wellbeing as well as the people they care for. This year for Carers Rights Day, Ceredigion Carers Unit and our partners wanted to ensure Carers have the information and the knowledge that they need at their fingertips, so they can feel confident asking for what they need.

Ceredigion Carers Unit and partners have brought together a Bumper Edition of the Winter Carers Magazine. It’s a ‘Carers Rights Day Directory of services’ bursting with useful information and advice on your rights, including, where to get help and support in West Wales.

There is also a free Carers programme of talks & short training sessions online (also with access by telephone). This programme runs right through until end of March 2021.

Being a carer can take its toll on your wellbeing. Following a recent Carers UK survey, 78% of Carers in Wales said that they have been unable to take any, or a sufficient, breaks from their caring role since the outbreak of COVID-19. As a result of this, surveyed Carers also reported that their health and wellbeing had been affected, with 66% reporting that their mental health had worsened due to the pandemic.

Councillor Catherine Hughes, Carers Champion for Ceredigion County Council, said: “The magazine and the programme of talks & short courses appeals to a huge variety of unpaid Carers. There is something in there for parent Carers, dementia Carers, young Carers, those caring for someone affected by mental health or substance misuse issues and everything in between. And relevant to those caring for people of all ages. If you know of anyone with caring responsibilities who would benefit from this magazine or the free advice sessions, please pass it on.”

Catherine Moyle, Carers Support and Development Officer, Ceredigion County Council, Carers Unit said: “A warm welcome is extended to all unpaid Carers in the county and those that you care for. These are challenging times. Reaching out for support when you need it is a form of self-care and it boosts your resilience. It takes a strong person to carry on caring – it takes a stronger, more resilient person to reach out to others.”

The programme of online sessions and the magazine are available on Ceredigion County Council’s website here: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/social-care-wellbeing/support-for-carers/carers-rights-day-2020/ and on their Facebook pages @CeredigionCC under events.

If you would prefer to request a printed copy of the magazine or would like any further information, please get in touch with the Ceredigion Carers Unit on 01970 633564 or e-mail carersunit@ceredigion.gov.uk.

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Make this week count to reduce the spread of the virus

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THE NUMBER of coronavirus cases in Ceredigion continues to increase and we ask all residents to follow the guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus. The sacrifices we make in the coming week will help to reduce the spread of the virus.

Over the last week, the County has seen 107 new cases, with 57 Ceredigion residents in the Cardigan area. But we are also seeing increasing numbers in the Lampeter area.

This sudden increase is something that we are not familiar with in Ceredigion but now is the time to work together to stop the spread even further.

We ask that you limit the number of times you leave your house and that you limit your social contact – the fewer people you mix with the less likely the virus will spread. It is better to see the same one or two people regularly than to see lots of different people. In both cases, it is safer to meet them outdoors and ensuring that you always maintain a 2m social distance.

Symptoms of coronavirus include a high temperature, a new continuous cough and a loss or change to sense of smell or taste. But be aware of other symptoms early on, such as headaches, tiredness and general aches and pains usually associated with flu. We are urging people who feel unwell to be extra cautious, especially to practice hand hygiene and distancing, and if in doubt, please book a test.

But only book a test if you have symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms and you go for a test and receive a negative result, it only tells you that you were didn’t have the virus on that day alone.

You can apply for a test online https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test or by phoning 119.

If you have come into contact with a positive case or if you or a member of your household have symptoms, you must all self-isolate immediately. This means that you cannot leave the house for any reason, except to go for a test.

If you receive a positive test, you must self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms started, meaning that you can leave your house on day 11. If you are a contact of a positive case, you must self-isolate for 14 days from when their symptoms started, meaning you can leave the house on day 15. It is critical that anyone needing to self-isolate completes the full number of days.

If you have been contacted by the Contact Tracing Team and been told to self-isolate, you may be entitled to Financial Support under the Self-Isolation Support Payment Scheme A £500 fixed payment will be available to people who qualify on the basis of low income, are unable to work from home and, as a consequence, will suffer a loss of income. To check if you are eligible for this payment and to make an application visit http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-support-payment-scheme/

Over the last week, we have seen our communities pulling together to stop the spread of the virus. Businesses in Cardigan have put in place procedures to ensure the safety of their customers whilst others have closed voluntarily during this period. We have also seen community spirit with support being provided to those who are self-isolating.

Remain vigilant and remember the key messages:

Keep a 2m social distance from each other when out and about;
Wash your hands regularly;
Limit your social contact;
Work from home wherever possible;
Wear a face mask in indoor public places, shops and on public transport.

Together, we can keep Ceredigion safe.

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Development of Ceredigion’s first Wellbeing Hub approved

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THE PROPOSAL to develop a Wellbeing Centre in Lampeter was approved at a Cabinet meeting on 01 December 2020.

As part of its commitment to form an Adult Wellbeing Program, Ceredigion County Council intends to establish Wellbeing Hubs in North, Mid and South Ceredigion as well as pop-up provision in other locations in the County. Each Wellbeing Hub (area) will host a ‘Wellbeing Centre’ – a facility that enhances its core offer of Leisure provision with areas for meeting, consultation and treatment to contribute to improving the physical, mental and social well-being of the County’s residents.

Councillor Catherine Hughes said, “It is clear that residents’ support needs are changing and the Wellbeing Centre should be able to offer assistance and provide services to ensure that they respond to need and offer support to a wide range of support for people of all ages. It’s great to see this positive first step for the residents of mid Ceredigion.”

The Wellbeing Centre development concept will be presented to the Corporate Project Management Board and Development Group to ensure that it follows the agreed protocols for a project of this status. Ceredigion County Council intends to develop further Wellbeing Centres in the North and South of the County. The learning through the creation of the first Centre in Lampeter will influence the other Centres and implement the program in the future.

The Wellbeing Hub in Lampeter is being developed with the help of a grant from the Welsh Government.

In approving the application, this allows the Welfare Services to progress the project work on the development of the Wellbeing Centre in Lampeter.

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