Four arrested as HMRC investigates alleged multi-million-pound tax scam

31 July 2020

As part of an ongoing investigation, four people have been arrested in connection with a suspected multi-million-pound phone scam, which targets UK taxpayers.

HMRC has advised that two men and two women have been arrested and questioned on suspicion of money laundering offences. Whilst property searches were made, HMRC seized computer equipment and mobile phones alongside £10,000 in cash.

Within the last year, phone scams have soared by 95 percent, with the UK public reporting over 203,000 accounts of suspected fraud.

The assistant director of fraud, Richard Mayer, said:

 “Criminals use a range of techniques in tax-related phone scams, including calling unsuspecting taxpayers to offer a bogus tax refund, or threatening them with arrest if they don’t immediately pay fictitious tax bills.

These scams often target the elderly and vulnerable. We are a well-known brand, which criminals abuse to try and add credibility to their scams"

With the current pandemic in full swing, this could present further prospects to fraudsters who look to benefit from financial uncertainty. The Personal Finance Society earlier this month appealed to advisers to act as a barrier of defence between fraudsters and unsuspecting victims during the coronavirus pandemic, as news that millions had fallen victim to fraud during this lockdown period broke.

Mr Mayer added:

"If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help, are owed a tax refund or owe tax, and asks for personal or bank details, it might be a scam.

If you can’t verify the identity of the caller, we recommend that you do not speak to them."

HMRC’s dedicated Customer Protection Team in Cyber Security Operations continuously works to identify and shut down scams. HMRC uses a range of government technical controls to prevent its helpline numbers being parodied, so that fraudsters can no longer make it seem that they are calling from HMRC.

The department also works closely with the telecoms industry and Ofcom to block malicious phone numbers.

HMRC’s advice:

Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to [email protected] and texts to 60599.

Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, and report it to Action Fraud.

Taxpayers can check GOV.UK for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact.

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