We have come across some customers who are rightly wary of being scammed by dodgy website owners who promise tax refunds and then either steal those refunds or use your personal information for fraud, sometimes both.

To reassure you that we are a legitimate business who will not steal your money or use your personal data for illegal purposes we have put together the following short guide on how to spot a tax refund scam website. The more of these a website doesn’t have the more likely it is to be a scam

Phishing Email – We all get lots of spam emails, a common one pretends to be from H M Revenue & Customs (HMRC) stating you have a refund due to you, it then directs you to a link to fill in some details to receive your refund. This information is used by the fraudsters to steal your own money and take out credit in your name. Please see this link to HMRC’s own advice on the subject
http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/security/phishing-emails.htm
Also play close attention to the language used in the email, is it in accepted UK English, most often scammers are from abroad and their command of English can have small but obvious errors in it.

Office location – Anyone intending to do you harm is unlikely to have a permanent office address that you can visit, they will typically use a PO Box, serviced office, mail redirection service or drop box provider such as Mailboxes etc. Be wary of anyone using these services. The easiest way to find out whether an address is legitimate is to use Google Street View. Type in the address on Google Maps, select the Street View option, locate building using the tilt and zoom options to read door numbers or shop signs. Firslty you find the address, secondly is it commercial or residential, thirdly does it look like a professional office type address.

Insurance – Anybody working to get you a tax refund should have professional indemnity insurance to protect you against any error or fraud that may happen while working for you. You cannot independently check insurance cover but we choose to place a copy of our certificate on our website and think others should do the same.

Qualifications – It is perfectly possible to supply this service with no formal qualifications but if your provider has them it provides four very large advantages.

  • Any qualified professional is governed by the rules set down by their organisation and can be severely dealt with for breaking them.
  • Qualified professionals have also had formal training over many years and will likely achieve a better result for you and more likely to invest in better systems to make your experience easier.
  • Any qualified person must hold a licence to practice and renew it annually including an obligation to educate themselves to the highest standards on current tax law.
  • They are also obliged to hold professional indemnity insurance generally of a minimum of £250,000.

There are quite a few recognised accounting and taxation bodies in the UK, below are links to the membership sections to allow you to search for anyone claiming to be a member of them.

Contact capability – Can you actually contact someone through any method you choose. Scammers will try and keep you at a healthy distance so they can disappear once you have been ripped off. The more contact methods someone offers the better. Landline phone, email, postal address, text messages.

Who is search – Every website has an owner known as its registrant. You can search here for that person or company’s details.

Companies House – Who owns the company you are dealing with, how long have they existed, a lot of information is available free or very cheaply directly from Companies House.
A website should list the company that owns it and its registered office at very least.

HMRC agent – Are they are registered agent of HMRC, this again isn’t a necessity but shows the site is serious about performing the tasks for you well.

Website security – We all know we shouldn’t put personal information into unsecure websites, so does it have the padlock.

Lastly you should compare all this information for consistency does it all match up, are there inconsistencies. Another simple technique to enter all the names, addresses and other information you have uncovered into Google and add the word scam, rip off or similar to see if anyone has posted details of a bad experience. People are very good at letting others know.

Should you be the victim of such a scam or find a tax refund provider you believe to be a scammer please let us know. We take pleasure in reporting these people in an effort to close them down.