HMRC halts thousands of scam text messages
25 January 2018
HMRC has stopped thousands of taxpayers from receiving scam text messages, with 90 percent of the most convincing texts now halted before they reach their phones.
Fraudsters alleging to be from HMRC send text messages to unsuspecting members of the public. In these messages they will make false claims, such as suggesting they are due a tax rebate. Messages will usually include links to websites that harvest personal information or spread malware. This can in turn lead to identity fraud and the theft of people’s personal savings.
We have said it before on behalf of HMRC and we will say it again and keep saying it:
HMRC will never contact customers who are due a tax refund by text message or by email.
Reports of this type of fraud have quickly increased in volume over the last few years. People are 9 times more likely to fall for text message scams than other forms like email because they can appear more legitimate, with many texts displaying ‘HMRC’ as the sender, rather than a phone number.
HMRC, working with public and private partners, began a pilot in April 2017 to combat these messages. The new technology identifies fraud texts with ‘tags’ that suggest they are from HMRC and stops them from being delivered.
Since the pilot began, there has been a 90% reduction in customer reports around the spoofing of these specific HMRC-related tags on SMS and a five-fold reduction in malicious SMS reports. The initiative has helped reduce reports of these scams from over 5,000 in March 2017, before the new programme was introduced, to fewer than 1,000 in December 2017. This progress comes after similar successes in tackling fraudulent emails and websites.
In the last 12 months, HMRC has initiated the removal of 16,000 malicious websites, meaning even if the texts are delivered, the associated phishing website is likely to have been removed.
By introducing technical controls, HMRC has also stopped customers receiving over 300 million emails purporting to come from the tax authority.
Take Five To Stop Fraud Week (22 – 26 January) is part of the national campaign from Financial Fraud Action UK and the UK Government, backed by the banking industry coming together to tackle fraud. Read all about the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign.
If you do receive a text purporting to be from HMRC, to help their investigations please forward details of the text message to 60599 (network charges apply) or email [email protected] before deleting.
More information on how to spot bogus HMRC correspondence and examples can be found on GOV.UK.