RESIDENTS are being warned after a fraudster pretending to be from a Bolton company threatened a woman and told her to pay an outstanding tax bill.

Cowgills, based on Chorley New Road, were told that someone purporting to be their head of tax, Lisa Wilson, contacted a woman and told her she owed tax and the amount needed to be paid immediately or she would be arrested.

But the woman did not owe any money and she reported the call to Cowgills, with the accountancy and business advisory service company confirming it was fraudulent and advising that it be reported to the police.

As the self-assessment HMRC tax returns deadline approaches on Sunday, January 31, Cowgills is urging people to be vigilant.

Lisa said: “Last week we were contacted by an individual whose mother had received a phone call from someone purporting to me.

"By using our company name it gave the phone call credibility.

"The person stated that she owed tax and the amount needed to be paid immediately or she would be arrested.

“Thankfully this lady flagged her concerns and her daughter contacted us to verify the claim.

"We advised them to refer the matter to the police having assured her that no advisors would ever take payment for tax.

"It seems that scammers are becoming increasingly convincing with phone calls, emails and fake websites, demanding payment, promising tax rebates or even threatening the individual if the fictitious tax bill is not paid.

“Criminals are getting smarter by copying HMRC’s style, its use of language and fonts etc which makes it harder for people to spot fraudulent activity.

"HMRC never send emails asking for personal bank details or payment, it only corresponds by letter regarding taxpayer specific information, a point we will be reminding all of our clients about ahead of the January payment deadline.

"Tax refunds can always be safely claimed by logging into your personal tax Account so there is never any reason to give out bank details.

“Sadly, during the pandemic we have seen a significant increase in the numbers of these scammers and their invention and audacity is alarming.

"We wanted to share our experience so that other advisors are aware and like us can advise their clients to verify any calls, alert HMRC and the police, reiterating the message to never make a payment of tax to anyone over the phone."

In the last 12 months, HMRC has responded to more than 846,000 referrals of suspicious HMRC contact from the public and reported over 15,500 malicious web pages to internet service providers.

Almost 500,000 of the referrals from the public said they were offered bogus tax rebates with the scammers trying to extract personal and banking details.

Lisa added: "I would like to see HMRC much more proactive on these frauds, publicising them and letting the general public know exactly how they collect tax.

"With greater understanding of how the tax process works people would know straight away that a phone call or email is not genuine.”

In response, a HMRC spokesperson said: “Criminals text, email or phone taxpayers offering spurious financial support or tax refunds, sometimes threatening them with arrest if they don’t immediately pay fictitious tax owed. 

“Several of the scams mimic government messages as a way of appearing authentic and unthreatening. HMRC is a well-known brand, which criminals abuse to add credibility to their scams.

"If you can’t verify the identity of the caller, HMRC recommends that you do not speak to them.

“If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help, are due a tax refund or owe tax, or asks for bank details, it might be a scam.

"Check GOVUK for our scams checklist, find out how to report tax scams here on GOVUK and get information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact here.

“HMRC’s dedicated customer protection team in cyber security operations works to identify and close down scams every day.

"HMRC has pioneered the use in government of technical controls to stop its helpline numbers being spoofed, so that fraudsters can no longer make it appear that they are calling from HMRC.

“Over the last year HMRC reported 4,538 phone numbers being used in tax-related phone scams to telecommunication companies for takedown, and responded to more than 340,303 reports of phone scams from the public, up 42 per cent on the previous year.

“The department also works in partnership with the telecoms industry and Ofcom to block malicious phone numbers.”

Here is some HMRC advice for residents on protecting yourself against fraud:


  • Take a moment to think before parting with your information or money. 
  • Don’t give out private information or reply to text messages, and don’t download attachments or click on links in texts or emails you weren’t expecting.


  • It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests - only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Search ‘scams’ on GOVUK for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact and how to avoid and report scams. 


  • Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to and texts to 60599. 
  • Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, and report it to Action Fraud.