Spoof taxman phone call scams being defeated by new controls

The number of attempted phone scams by “heartless” fraudsters acting as the taxman has fallen by a quarter since new defensive controls were introduced in April.

One in four phishing reports made to national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, Action Fraud, between April 2018 and March 2019 were about fraudulent phone calls. Picture: PR IMAGE FACTORY.
One in four phishing reports made to national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, Action Fraud, between April 2018 and March 2019 were about fraudulent phone calls. Picture: PR IMAGE FACTORY.

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One in four phishing reports made to national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, Action Fraud, between April 2018 and March 2019 were about fraudulent phone calls. Picture: PR IMAGE FACTORY.

An increasingly trend of criminals mimicking legitimate HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) helpline numbers in order to dupe taxpayers and steal money has prompted authorities to act.

The ‘spoofing’ scam has seen taxpayers receive calls, often from numbers beginning with 0300, and on checking the numbers online, would find they appeared to belong to HMRC. This often led people to believe fake calls were real.

Figures obtained by The Yorkshire Post recently showed that residents and businesses in Yorkshire alone were conned out of £30m between April 2018 and September 2018. Of 21.347 crimes reported to Action Fraud from people in Yorkshire in that time, 36.5 per cent involved phone calls.

Last year, HMRC received a total of more than 100,000 phone scam reports as fraudsters quoted the tax office’s most recognisable helpline numbers.

However, as of today, HMRC claimed it had removed all phone scams spoofing genuine inbound HMRC telephone numbers, using controls created in partnership with the telecommunications industry and Ofcom that are the first of their kind to be used by a UK government department.

Since the controls were first used, the tax authority received 25 per cent fewer scam reports compared to a month earlier.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman MP, hailed “a huge step forward in the fight against phone fraud”, saying: “HMRC’s new controls will help to protect thousands of hardworking taxpayers and their families from these heartless criminals.

“Vigilance will always be important but this is a significant blow to the phone cheats.”

HMRC has requested the removal of more than 1,050 numbers from being used by scammers in the last 10 months.

Phone fraud remains rife

One in four phishing reports made to national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, Action Fraud, between April 2018 and March 2019 were about fraudulent phone calls.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “Phone calls are one of the top ways for fraudsters to make contact with their victims.

“It is encouraging to see that these newly developed controls by HMRC have already achieved a reduction in the number of calls spoofing genuine HMRC numbers.”

She said anyone who is suspicious about who they are speaking to should end the call and report it to Action Fraud.

HMRC helpline numbers are listed on the gov.uk website.