A WARNING has been issued about callous crooks who are posing as staff from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to con victims out of cash.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of fake emails, calls and messages being sent, with a number of local residents falling foul to fraudsters.

The tactics used by criminals have become increasingly sophisticated, with many able to replicate email addresses from authorities such as HMRC that, on first glance, appear to be genuine.

These so-called phishing attacks aim to extract personal information that enables fraudsters to steal identities and bank details.

One such scam currently being reported is an email telling customers they are eligible to receive an employment income support scheme credit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Anyone who receives such an email should not reply to it, click on any links or open any attachments.

Instead, they should report the matter to HMRC immediately by emailing it to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk.

Another common scam is the offer of a tax rebate, often via a text message.

Staff at HMRC have stressed they will never contact anyone by text about tax rebates, so any messages that offer a refund are fake.

Anyone who receives a text asking for personal or financial information should forward it to HMRC at 60599.

Fraudsters have also been sending messages via social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Twitter to target potential victims, with promises of a tax refund.

HMRC has said it would never use the likes of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn to offer tax rebates or request personal information, so all such messages should be deleted straight away.

Residents are also being asked to be alert to phone scams, with HMRC aware of fraudsters using an automated message that tells the victim they are the subject of a lawsuit and must press 1 to speak to a caseworker to make a payment.

Anyone who answers such a call is advised to end it immediately.

Mike Fell, head of cyber security operations at HMRC, said: “We see high numbers of fraudsters contacting people claiming to be from HMRC.

"If in doubt, our advice is do not reply directly to anything suspicious but contact HMRC through GOV.UK straight away and search GOV.UK for ‘HMRC scams'."

For more information, visit www.gov.uk/topic/dealing-with-hmrc/phishing-scams.