Breakthrough controls stop phone fraudsters spoofing HMRC

03 June 2019

 

New defensive controls deployed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have put an end to fraudster’s spoofing the tax authority’s most recognisable helpline numbers.

 

Fraudsters have increasingly mimicked legitimate HMRC helpline numbers (often beginning with 0300) in order to dupe taxpayers and steal money. Last year alone, HMRC received over 100,000 phone scam reports.

 

The ‘spoofing’ scam worked as taxpayers would receive calls and, on checking the numbers online, would find they appeared to belong to HMRC. This often led people to believe fake calls were real and enabled fraud.

 

The new controls, created in partnership with the telecommunications industry and Ofcom, will prevent spoofing of HMRC’s most used inbound helpline numbers and are the first to be used by a government department in the United Kingdom.

 

Criminals may still try and use less credible numbers to deploy their scams – but that means they will be easier to spot.

 

HMRC has seen an increasing number of phone scams against UK taxpayers hence its urgent action.

 

  • 2016/17 – 407 reports
  • 2017/18 – 7,778 reports
  • 2018/19 – 104,774 reports

 

How can you spot a scam?

Thanks to HMRC’s controls, scammers will now be forced to use much less credible looking numbers but you should still be vigilant as scammers may try spoof other numbers. Advice for avoiding phone scams includes:

  • 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.
  • Stay safe - don’t give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting.
  • Take action - forward details of suspicious calls claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool if you suffer financial loss.
  • Check GOV.UK for information on how to avoid and report scams and recognise genuine HMRC contact.
  • Listen to an example of what a phone scam sounds like on Twitter.
  • 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.