HMRC Telephone Scam Alert
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is warning the public about a high-profile phone scam that is conning vulnerable and elderly people out of thousands of pounds.
The scammers are preying on victims by cold calling them and impersonating an HMRC representative. The caller informs them that they owe large amounts of tax which they can only pay off through digital vouchers and gift cards, including those used for Apple’s iTunes Store.
Victims are told to go to a local shop, buy these vouchers, and then read out the redemption code to the scammer, who has kept them on the phone the whole time. The fraudsters then sell on the codes or purchase high-value products, all at the victim’s expense.
The scammers frequently use intimidation to get what they want, threatening to seize the victim’s property or involve the police. The use of vouchers is an attractive scam as they are easy to sell on and hard to trace once used.
HMRC would never request the settling of debt through such a method.
The scam continues to hit many people. There have been over 1,500 reports of this scam, with the numbers increasing in recent months according to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre. Most of the victims are over 65 and suffered an average financial loss of £1,150 each.
HMRC is working closely with law enforcement agencies, Apple and campaign groups to make sure the public is able to spot the scam and to promptly report. Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Lara Xenoudakis, City of London Police, said:
“Fraudsters perceive the elderly and vulnerable as easy targets, so we are urging people to be wary of HMRC-related frauds to protect themselves, family members and friends. We have received an increasing number of reports in which we have been told that people are being asked to pay fraudsters in iTunes vouchers. People should be cautious of unsolicited emails, calls or letters and always check directly with HMRC to ensure they are legitimate before responding.”
If you suspect that you or a vulnerable or elderly relative has been the victim of this scam or a similar one, you should report it immediately to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool.