HMRC telephone scams

We have become aware of an increase in scam telephone calls regarding outstanding tax from people claiming to be from HMRC.  

ATT Technical Steering Group member Jon Stride recently appeared on his local radio station to highlight a concerted attack on his home town.  During the day, the scammers are believed to have called several hundred residents, before moving on to another nearby town and repeating the exercise a few days later.

Key features of the scam calls to date include:  

  • They only ring land lines.
  • They ask for the person on that number by name.
  • The normally ask for payments of outstanding tax typically ranging from £920 to £980.
  • They normally state that if the liability is not paid immediately, the amount due will increase substantially (figures of £45,000 and £96,000 were quoted in two cases).  In one case the scammers claimed that the liability had been outstanding since 1985.
  • The person called was asked to purchase iTunes vouchers to pay their supposed outstanding balance.  These could either be collected in person by the scammers, or the codes read out over the phone.
  • For "security purposes" they ask the person they are speaking to to confirm details of their identity (e.g. their date of birth and National Insurance number).
  • If the scam caller is asked to put the details in writing, they get very aggressive, saying that they have already sent many reminders.
  • They sometimes leave messages on answerphones. The message asks the person to ring 08000 273930 and to press 1 for the case handler.
  • In this attack, calls came from 07441 392094 (though of course this could change).
  • The calls were made by both men and women. 
  • Many of the people that received calls had no reason to have an outstanding tax liability (e.g. their only source of income was subject to PAYE or they were not working or retired).

The people behind these calls can be very convincing, and have successfully extracted money and personal details from targeted individuals.

It is important to remember HMRC will not call individuals out of the blue to demand money or inform them of penalties or refunds.  Instead taxpayers will usually be contacted by letter or the P800 in the first instance.

If individuals receive a suspicious callpurporting to be from HMRC they should:

  • Not provide any payment or other personal information.
  • If in any doubt, hang up and call HMRC back directly, as they would normally, rather than on any numbers provided
  • If they have already disclosed personal details, seek advice and, where they suffer a financial loss, report this to Action Fraud.

Where to look for further advice

A technical article on HMRC phishing attempts can be found on the ATT website here.

HMRC also publish up to date lists of their official communications (see here) and examples of known phishing emails and bogus contact (see here) which can be consulted.

Please be aware that if you suddenly receive several calls in a very short space of time from people that have received these calls, that a similar concentrated attack may be taking place. You may wish to consider making local social media sites, radio stations and high street banks aware of what you think is happening.


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