New defensive controls deployed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have put an end to fraudsters spoofing the tax authority’s most recognisable helpline numbers. Fraudsters have increasingly mimicked legitimate HMRC Helpline numbers (often beginning with 0300) in a bid 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 UK.
Criminals may still try and use less credible numbers to deploy their scams, but that means they will be easier to spot.
Jesse Norman, financial secretary to the Treasury, said: “This is a huge step forward in the fight against phone fraud. HMRC’s new controls will help to protect thousands of hardworking taxpayers and their families from these heartless criminals. Vigilance will always be important, but this is a significant blow to the phone cheats.”
Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, explained: “Phone calls are one of the top ways for fraudsters to make contact with their victims. Between April 2018 and March 2019, one-in-four phishing reports made to Action Fraud were about fraudulent phone calls. It’s encouraging to see that these newly developed controls have already achieved a reduction in the number of calls spoofing genuine HMRC numbers.”
Since the controls were introduced in April this year, HMRC has reduced to zero the number of phone scams spoofing genuine inbound HMRC numbers. This has resulted in the tax authority already receiving 25% fewer scam reports against the previous month.
HMRC will continue to work with network providers to eradicate fraudulent numbers that are reported and, during the last ten months, has requested the removal of over 1,050 numbers from being used by scammers.