HMRC saves members of general public over £2.4 million by stopping fraudsters

Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has saved the public over £2.4 million by taking down websites that trick people into calling premium rate phone numbers for services that HMRC actually provides for free.

Fraudsters had been creating replica versions of HMRC’s website and directing the public to call premium rate numbers advertised on them. These numbers were simply call forwarding services that connect callers to HMRC, but at a significant price.

HMRC said that specific tactics and costs on each website varied, but the maximum cost of a call was £3.60 per minute, capped at £36 per call. HMRC’s own 0300 numbers are mostly free or charged at the national landline rate.

HMRC successfully challenged the ownership of these fraudulent websites and had them taken down. Careful analysis has shown that, had HMRC not taken this action, then the public would have lost over £2.4 million.

This announcement from HMRC comes at the start of Scams Awareness Month organised by Citizens Advice which is running throughout June.

Action Fraud has detailed a variety of HMRC scams, including fraudsters using spoofed calls, voicemails and text messages in order to dupe victims out of their money. HMRC scam e-mails are also the most reported type of phishing attempt reported to Action Fraud.

Treasury Minister Mel Stride MP, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “We know that HMRC is the most spoofed Government brand as criminals try to take advantage of the fact that everyone has some involvement with the tax authority. In this particular case, scammers try to dupe the public into paying large sums for services that are available for free or low cost.”

Stride continued: “This is a brazen con, charging premium rates while simply redirecting calls to the real HMRC numbers that are available at low or no cost. It’s a testament to the hard work of HMRC that the organisation has prevented criminals from extracting £2.4 m from the public.”

In conclusion, Stride stated: “Members of the public should go direct to gov.uk to obtain genuine HMRC contact numbers. These will not be premium rate numbers. People should be alert for sponsored adverts, websites charging for Government services which would be expected to be free and those with disclaimers denying association with HMRC or government.”

*Read more on the HMRC Gov.uk website

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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