Over recent years HMRC has increasingly cracked down on email and SMS phishing, and a number of criminals are turning to cold-calling publicly available phone numbers to steal money from taxpayers. These calls are often made to landline numbers. 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.
Fraudsters often target the elderly and vulnerable using HMRC name as it is well known and adds credibility to a call. HMRC received more than 60,000 reports of phone scams in the six months up to January 2019 (an increase of 360% when compared with the previous six months).
Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride MP, said:
'We have taken major steps to crack down 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, said:
'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.'
'The tax authority will only ever 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.'
During the last 12 months, HMRC has worked with the phone networks and Ofcom to close nearly 450 lines being used by fraudsters.