HMRC warns of 360% rise in landline phone tax scams

HMRC is warning households with a landline number to be vigilant of phone calls from fraudsters pretending to be the tax authority, after a surge in the number of scams using this approach

As HMRC has increasingly cracked down on email and SMS phishing, a rising number of criminals are turning to the traditional method of cold-calling publicly available phone numbers.

HMRC received more than 60,000 reports of phone scams in six months up to January 2019. This is an increase of 360% compared to the six months before this.

According to Ofcom, nearly 26m homes have a landline, many of which could be at risk from scams, especially if they are not ex-directory. 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.

Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury, 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.’

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.

If anyone is ever in doubt about who they are speaking to, HMRC advises they end the call and contact the department using one of the numbers or online services available from gov.uk. The tax authority will only ever call asking for payment on a debt that the taxpayer already aware of, either having received a letter about it, or through a self-assessment return.

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