When someone searches online for HMRC’s phone numbers or digital services they can be directed to other websites. Some of these promote premium rate, non-HMRC numbers as a means of reaching the department. These are in fact call forwarding services which connect callers to HMRC, but at a hefty price, despite HMRC’s own 0300 numbers being free of charge or charged at the national landline rate. In other cases, sites charge for forwarding information to HMRC which can be provided free of charge through GOV.UK.
Too often, this is an attempt to mislead customers and gain business at their expense, without making it clear that the service isn’t affiliated to HMRC.
Since January, HMRC’s cyber security team has taken control of over 75 of these dubious sites by challenging their ownership. Any members of the public trying to access these sites will now be redirected to HMRC’s GOV.UK pages, which provide HMRC’s genuine contact numbers as well as advice on how to spot the misleading websites.
Through this work, HMRC has redirected over a million customers to GOV.UK, averting a potential one million visits to malicious or otherwise misleading websites.
Commenting on this milestone achievement, Angela MacDonald (HMRC’s director of customer services) said: “HMRC takes the abuse of its brand very seriously. Attempts to dupe customers in this way will not be tolerated and we will always act to protect the public from malicious or misleading websites.”
As well as taking over ownership of these sites, HMRC is also combating other types of scams targeting its customers. This includes requesting the removal of over 20,000 malicious websites in the last year.
*Information on how to spot all types of scams is published on HMRC’s website