HMRC warns businesses over QR code VAT email scam

HMRC warns businesses over QR code VAT email scam
Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Thu 2nd May 2024

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) says it has identified a new email scam which encourages recipients to scan a QR code and share their personal details which could lead to money being stolen.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the government department said the fraudulent message is related to VAT. It warned that "HMRC will never ask you to submit personal information via a QR code. If you have received this email, do not engage, and report it to us."

The government's instructions for how to report suspicious phone calls, emails and text messages are outlined here.

HMRC does use QR codes in communications, but they will usually link to guidance on the official government website. HMRC will inform you if the QR code takes you anywhere else, and you will never be taken to a page where you have to input personal information.

The official guidance guidance says:

"When you are logged into your HMRC account, we may use QR codes to redirect you. For example, to take you to your bank's login page.

"If we're using QR codes in communications you'll be able to see them on the genuine HMRC contacts page.

"To help fight phishing scams, send any suspicious emails containing QR codes to then delete them."

QR codes have existed since the 1990s, but they reached major prominence in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic when they were used for a range of actions including ordering from menus in restaurants.

The number of scams involving a QR code reported to Action Fraud increased from 380 in 2022 to 651 in 2023.

Related resources

How to manage your business's cyber security

Cyber security for small businesses: A basic guide

Top cyber security threats and how to tackle them

Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance content creator and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I'm also Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I have 20 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from famous names like Sir Richard Branson and Deborah Meaden to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I now freelance for Enterprise Nation as the website's news reporter and as the host of the Small Business sessions podcast. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community in my role as Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I also have strong connections with other major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 100 events including conferences with an audience of hundreds for international brands like Xero and Facebook and live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography.

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