Attempts to scam people out of their hard-earned money are an unfortunate reality. Despite efforts to raise awareness of scams and let people know what to look out for, fraudsters will find ways around them. We believe that scamming is very wrong, and we want to do our bit to help keep that awareness level high and people up to date with the latest scams being used.
With increasing awareness of online and text message scams – more on those in a moment – fraudsters have turned to the more old-fashioned landline more recently. According to media reports there was an increase of 360% in phone scams in the last six months of 2018. The typical caller will pose as a tax official informing unsuspecting victims that a lawsuit is being filed against them. By pressing a particular number on their phone, they are told that they will be transferred to caseworker to make payment to stop this from going any further. Alternatively, they may ask for debit or credit card details to settle an ‘outstanding debt’.
By doing that, your payment will go to the fraudsters, not to HMRC. It is also not a way in which HMRC will ever contact you in the first instance. If you are unsure, hang up and get in touch with HMRC to report the call.
Our advice is to treat any such call as suspicious and to let the HMRC know straightaway. HRMC will only contact you by phone following initial contact by letter – so you will already be aware of any outstanding debt before their second attempt to contact you by phone.
Fraudsters use publicly available landline numbers to contact people. While the HMRC is working to remove the phone numbers fraudsters call through from the network, you can also register your phone number with the Telephone Preference Service or consider installing a call blocking device.
Other, more ‘established’ scams that have been going on for longer include:
- Email notification of a rebate or refund. This is not something that HMRC would ever do and it is fairly easy for the email address to look genuine, so don’t fall for it.
- Text message notification of a rebate. As with the email scam this will ask you to click on a link to a website.
- Social media messages. The latest one is through Twitter, offering a tax refund and asking you to click on a link.
What should you do?
If you are unsure of any approach, let HMRC know as soon as possible. Forward details of the time and date of any call and the phone number it came from. For email or text messages, forward them to and then delete them to avoid any accidental clicks on links.
Never click on any links and never give out personal information, including your address and bank details, to anyone you are unsure of. If in doubt, let HMRC know.