THE government is warning households with landlines to be vigilant after thousands of people have been targeted by scammers pretending to be the tax authority.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) says that phone scams often target the elderly and vulnerable using HMRC’s brand as it is well known and adds credibility to a fraudster’s call.
Following a crack down on on email and SMS phishing, a rising number of criminals are turning to the traditional method of cold-calling publicly available phone numbers to steal money from taxpayers.
Now HMRC reminding people that they will only call you asking for payment on a debt that you are already aware of, either having received a letter about it, or after you’ve told us you owe some tax, for example through a Self Assessment return.
The advice comes after several pensioners across Hampshire were targeted by scammers, which sparked a warning from police.
HMRC received more than 60,000 reports of phone scams in 6 months up to January 2019.
This is an increase of 360 per cent compared to the 6 months before this.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride MP, said: ‘We have taken major steps to crackdown on text and email phishing scams leaving fraudsters no choice but to try and con taxpayers over the phone.
‘If you receive a suspicious call to your landline from someone purporting to be from HMRC which threatens legal action, to put you in jail, or payment using vouchers: hang up and report it to HMRC who can work to take them off the network.’
Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, added: ‘Fraudsters will call your landline claiming to be from reputable organisations such as HMRC.
‘Contact like this is designed to convince you to hand over valuable personal details or your money.
‘Don’t assume anyone who calls you is who they say they are.
‘If a person calls and asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be cautious and seek advice.'
According to Ofcom, nearly 26 million homes have a landline, many of which could be at risk from scams, especially if they are not ex-directory.
During the last 12 months, HMRC has worked with the phone networks and Ofcom to close nearly 450 lines being used by fraudsters using boiler room tactics to steal money.
If anyone is ever in doubt about who they are speaking to, HMRC advises you end the call and contact the department using one of the numbers or online services available from GOV.UK