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Almost 10,000 coronavirus scams reported to HMRC in the first half of 2020

The number of phishing scams reported to HMRC has climbed steadily month on month in H1 of 2020, with the total number of COVID related scams rising to 10,000, according to analysis by Saffery Champness.

Almost 10,000 coronavirus scams reported to HMRC in the first half of 2020
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  • Staff Reporter
  • September 30, 2020
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The number of COVID related scams reported to HMRC peaked in May, then proceeded to fall by over 55 per cent in June, new research from Saffery Champness revealed.

According to new data obtained by the accountancy firm through a Freedom of Information request, taxpayers reported 9,948 COVID-related scams to HMRC in H1 of 2020.

“In the first six months of 2020, the coronavirus brought unprecedented challenges to public health, to the healthcare system and to the state of the economy, yet what this data shows is that in the midst of these crises people face a further man-made threat in the form of unscrupulous individuals," said Mike Hodges, head of private wealth at Saffery Champness.

“The surge in the number of scams received by taxpayers since the onset of the crisis continues to threaten the security of peoples’ personal data and their financial wellbeing, at a time when households are already facing enormous strains on their finances."

According to the accounting firm, the number of scams reported to HMRC that explicitly mentioned COVID-19 peaked in May with 5,048 incidents, after which the figure fell by more than 50 per cent to 2,495 in June. 

“The marked decline in the number of coronavirus scams in June may reflect the efforts of HMRC and other government bodies to combat fraudulent activity, and should certainly not be interpreted as a deliberate ceasefire on the part of the scammers in their campaign to exploit the pandemic for financial gain," said Mr Hodges. 

The total number of all phishing scams reported to HMRC was 44,777 in January. This rose steadily month on month to a peak of 77,148 in June, an overall increase of 73 per cent. 

On average, two-thirds (66 per cent) of the scams reported to HMRC in H1 of 2020 offered the recipient some form of tax refund or rebate. 

“In the minds of those who perpetrate such scams, no issue or crisis is too grave that it does not present fertile ground for exploitation and profiteering, and coronavirus has been no exception," said Mr Hodges. 

In 2013, HMRC was the third most-phished brand globally, and had fallen to 14th in 2015. By 2019, HMRC was only the 146th most-phished brand. 

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