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Business Services  •  HMRC  •  Taxation

Fraudsters clone HMRC phone number to scam taxpayers

By RJP LLP on 29 August, 2019

A few months ago, we wrote about Authorised Push Payment Fraud, which is one of the fastest growing forms of financial crime. Now, it has become apparent that some criminals are also posing as HMRC to con UK taxpayers in this way, but via phone calls rather than emails. Be aware this is happening and do not pay any ‘outstanding tax bills’ unless you separately verify the request is genuine with your tax adviser or with HMRC.  Here’s what happened to one woman, who now faces a loss of £2,600, which her bank is refusing to repay.

Rather than the usual phishing email, this victim received a phone call, in which a fraudster masqueraded as HMRC, using a cloned number. They claimed she owed tax, for which she would be held criminally accountable. The con artist was well informed about her personal information, telling her that the mistake had arisen because of an error in calculating her tax code and that her employer had made mistakes. They were highly persuasive.

At that point the victim should have contacted either her employer, her tax adviser or HMRC to check the situation, but she didn’t. Since the phone number being used by the scammers appeared to be genuine and as she was being threatened with a prison sentence, she just paid what was ‘due’.

Once she realised this was a scam, she quickly reported the fraud to her bank but because she had authorised the payment, the bank considered they were not liable.

Protect yourself from scams

Although HMRC says they have taken action and it is no longer possible to clone tax office numbers, people should still be wary of phone and email scams. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and any vulnerable family members:

  • Be aware that HMRC will always contact you in writing if they wish to query any tax payments;
  • You should only ever face the possibility of a tax under-payment if you are liable to complete a self-assessment tax return. PAYE underpayments outside of your tax return will be collected through your coding by your employer;
  • Never give out any personal information and be aware that banks and HMRC will never ask for passwords or PIN numbers;
  • If you receive an unsolicited email or text asking you to click on a link or download anything, never act on it and simply forward it onto phishing@hmrc.gov.uk or send the text to 60599. You can also get advice from Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040;
  • HMRC will never telephone you and ask for a payment then and there.

Read the full article on this case here: Santander scam article

If you are concerned about any tax payments that are due, please contact us at partners@rjp.co.uk

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