HM Revenue & Customs 

HMRC shuts down copy cat scams

HMRC shuts down copy cat scams

Recent steps taken by HM Revenue & Customs to prevent fraudsters copying the tax authority's telephone number have already reaped rewards, leading to a 25 per cent drop in overall scam reports. 

In April the taxman introduced stricter controls in partnership with Ofcom to stop fraudsters spoofing HMRC's most recognisable helpline numbers, often those beginning with the digits 0300. 

The heightened defensive measures were in response to scammers "increasingly" impersonating HMRC by using the tax authority's telephone number to steal money from victims, with more than 100,000 phone scam reports received by HMRC last year alone. 

The "spoofing" scam would see victims check the authenticity of a the fraudster's number online, only to find it appeared to belong to HMRC. 

In figures published this week the taxman said it had seen the number of phone scams spoofing genuine HMRC numbers reduced to zero since the new measures were introduced. 

The tax authority said this had led to a 25 per cent drop in overall scam reports, compared with the previous month. 

Jesse Norman MP, financial secretary to the Treasury, said this was a "huge step forward" in the fight against phone fraud. 

He said: "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."

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

Cold-calling has already been banned by the government in the pension space but the same does not apply to other areas.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said phone calls are one of the most common methods used by fraudsters to make contact with their victims. 

Ms Smith said: "Between April 2018 and March 2019, one in four phishing reports made to Action Fraud were about fraudulent phone calls.

"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."

rachel.addison@ft.com

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