HMRC warning on landline phone scams
Do you still have a landline telephone in your house?
Despite the rising popularity of mobile phones, many people still have a landline phone, often as part of their broadband Internet package.
But with a landline phone comes the danger of scam callers.
HM Revenue & Customs has issued a new warning, telling people to be vigilant of phone calls from fraudsters pretending to be calling from the taxman.
With a recent focus on the tax scams carried out via email and SMS text messages, criminals are now turning their attention to more traditional forms of attack, including cold calls to landlines.
Ofcom data shows that nearly 26 million homes have a landline telephone, placing many of them at risk of scam calls, especially if they are not ex-directory and therefore listed in a telephone directory.
Phone scammers will often target elderly and vulnerable people. The scammers like to use the HRMC brand because it is well known, carrying authority and credibility.
In the six months to January 2019, HMRC received reports of more than 60,000 phone scams. This represents a 360% increase compared to the previous six months.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride MP, said:
“We have taken major steps to crackdown on text and email phishing scams leaving fraudsters no choice but to try and con taxpayers over the phone.
“If you receive a suspicious call to your landline from someone purporting to be from HMRC which threatens legal action, to put you in jail, or payment using vouchers: hang-up and report it to HMRC who can work to take them off the network.”
Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said:
“Fraudsters will call your landline claiming to be from reputable organisations such as HMRC. Contact like this is designed to convince you to hand over valuable personal details or your money.
“Don’t assume anyone who calls you is who they say they are. If a person calls and asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be cautious and seek advice.”
It’s worth noting that HMRC will only ever call you asking for payment in respect of a debt about which you already know. This means calls from HRMC will not come out of the blue; you will have received a letter about it first, or have told them you owe the Revenue some tax, for example through your self-assessment tax return.
Following reports of scam calls, HRMC has been able to work with telephone networks and telecoms regulator Ofcom, to shut down almost 450 phone lines being used by scammers in an attempt to steal money.
If you’re ever in any doubt about the authenticity of a phone call claiming to come from HRMC, just hang up and then call them back using a telephone number you have looked up yourself. Make sure the phone line is clear before calling again, as a tactic some scammers use is to remain on the line, playing the sound of a dial tone to trick people.
To help protect people from these scam calls, HRMC has published some tips:
Recognise the signs – genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details.
Stay safe – don’t give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting.
Take action – forward suspicious emails claiming and details of suspicious calls to be from HMRC to firstname.lastname@example.org texts to 60599, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool, especially if you suffer financial loss.
Check GOV.UK for information on how to avoid and report scams and recognise genuine HMRC contact.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said of landline scams:
“Scammers will use any means possible to cheat people out of their money and we’d urge everyone to be cautious when they receive a cold-call from someone requesting personal information, no matter where they say they’re calling from. If there are any niggling doubts it is always sensible to end the call and contact the company or government department separately using a phone number taken from a piece of official correspondence or their website.
“We encourage people to feel in control of who calls them at home, for example by signing up to the Telephone Preference Service or installing a call blocking device. To find out more about how Age UK can help, including obtaining the Charity’s free information guides ‘Avoiding Scams’ and ‘Staying Safe’, people can call Age UK Advice on 0800 169 6565, visit www.ageuk.org.uk or speak to their local Age UK.”