Consumer watchdog warns against fake online tax aids

The real HMRC website

Moray residents are being warned to be wary of an increasing number of websites that appear to be official government agencies but actually sell official services at inflated prices.

These include websites that have been designed to trap unwary small business owners who are this required to submit tax returns by the end of the month or risk facing fines from HMRC.

Trading Standards say that they received 15 complaints last year from Moray residents and businesses who had been caught out by copycat websites – and are urging people to ensure that the sites they are using is an official government site, identified by their use of a .gov.uk domain name.

Sites that look official have been offering a “checking service” and seek an additional fee over and above any costs of the official service – in many cases a fee is charged for services that do not attract any charges when dealing with genuine government websites.

Any website operating in this manner are legally obliged to disclose that they are not connected to any government department – but often that information is presented in such a way that it is not clearly obvious to visitors.

In a statement released this week Moray Trading Standards said: “Examples of the types of goods and services commonly applied for include submitting a tax return, European health insurance card, renewal of driving licences, booking a driving theory test, paying car tax and renewing a passport.

“Trading standards advises people to access government services through the www.gov.uk website rather than googling for government services. This will take you straight through to the official site and avoid the lookalikes.”

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