1. Money matters
March 12, 2018

HMRC scam calls: Criminals targeting Britons with tax scam caught on tape by Verdict

By Dominic Ponsford

Sophisticated blaggers posing as UK tax collectors have been caught on tape by Verdict.

The gang has been targeting people across the UK posing as Her Majesty’s Customers and Revenue (HMRC) with an automated message.

The message states that the target has been under surveillance and is being prosecuted for non-payment of taxes. It urges the target to call a London telephone number beginning with the 0203 prefix.

Listen to the fake HMRC telephone message here:

A Verdict reporter was targeted twice by the scam. On the first occasion when they called the number the scammer answered saying that it was “HMRC”. The criminal then went into a long script explaining why the reporter was in arrears on their taxes.

When the reporter asked the scammer: “How do I know you are legit?” they rang off.

The reporter was then targeted a second time.

This time when they called up, the scammer answered: “Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, how can I help you?”

On this occasion they asked for the reporter’s name.

When the reporter answered with a fake name (they used the name of deceased magazine publisher Felix Dennis) – the scammer said: “Suck my co** motherfu****” and the rang off.

Listen to the second call with the HMRC scammer here:

In both cases when the reporter rang back the number was initially not answered. And then later the number was out of use.

The scammers appear to be using the fake threat of legal action to panic their targets into handing over bank details.

There have been reports this month of elderly residents being targeted in Wales by a similar sounding scam.

In the case of the scammer targeting the Verdict reporter, they clearly had their target’s name as well as their mobile phone number – because they rang off as soon as a fake name was given.

HMRC does sometimes use automated message (but will use your taxpayer reference number)

A spokeperson for HMRC said:

Phone scams are widely reported, and generally attempt to target elderly and vulnerable people. They often involve people receiving a call out of the blue and being told that HMRC is investigating them. If you can’t verify the identity of the caller, we recommend that you do not speak to them.

HMRC will call people about outstanding tax bills, and sometimes use automated messages, however it would include your taxpayer reference number. If you are uncertain of the caller hang up and call HMRC directly to check – you can confirm our call centre numbers online if you are unsure.

For tax credits we do not include your details in any voicemail messages.

How to spot scam phone messages (advice from HMRC)

  1. Recognise the signs – genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details.
  2. Stay safe – don’t give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting.
  3. Take action – forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and texts to 60599, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls or use their online fraud reporting tool.
  4. Check GOV.UK for information on how to avoid and report scams and recognise genuine HMRC contact.
  5. If you think you have received an HMRC related phishing/bogus email or text message, you can check it against the examples shown in this guide.