HMRC has issued a warning about fraudsters who are preying on victims by cold-calling them and impersonating members of staff from the Revenue.
The vulnerable and elderly are being told they owe large amounts of tax which they can only pay off through digital vouchers and gift cards. On average, victims are being scammed out of a total of £1,150.
Figures from the national fraud reporting centre, Action Fraud, show there have been more than 1,500 reports of this scam between January 2016 and August 2017. Worryingly, the numbers have increased in recent months, with the vast majority of victims being over the age of 65.
HMRC has described the scammers as “very confident, convincing and utterly ruthless” and have insisted they would never use this method of payment to process a tax bill.
HMRC’s director general of customer services, Angela MacDonald commented:
“We urge people to warn elderly relatives about this scam and remind them that they should never trust anyone who phones out of the blue and asks them to pay a tax bill. If you think you’ve been a victim, you should contact Action Fraud immediately.”
If you have been contacted by HMRC about unpaid tax and you’re worried it might not be genuine, please contact PKB Accountants in Berkshire and we will look into this for you.
How does the scam work?
Scammers are cold-calling victims and impersonating a member of staff from HMRC. The targets are told they owe a large amount of tax that they can only pay off using gift cards or digital vouchers from popular retailers, such as Apple’s iTunes store.
Once the vouchers or cards have been purchased, the victims are told to read the redemption code to the fraudster, who sells on the codes to buy more expensive products at the expense of the victim.
Intimidating methods, such as threatening to seize the victim’s home or involving the police, are used in an attempt to manipulate victims into complying. HMRC says the use of digital vouchers is an increasingly attractive scam as they are easy to sell on and hard to trace once used.
How to report scams
If you or a vulnerable relative have been targeted by this scam or any other, you should report it immediately to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via the Action Fraud website. Alternatively, you can please contact PKB Accountants in Berkshire and we will be more than happy to help.