HOUSEHOLDS with a landline number should be vigilant of phone calls from fraudsters pretending to be the taxman, warns HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Following an HMRC crack down on email and SMS phishing, they say a rising number of criminals are turning to the traditional method of cold-calling publicly available phone numbers to steal money from taxpayers. Often these calls are 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.
The scams often target the elderly and vulnerable using HMRC’s brand as it is well-known and adds credibility to a fraudster’s call.
HMRC state they 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.
Financial secretary to the treasury, Mel Stride MP, 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.’
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.