Fraudsters looking to mimic the taxman by imitating helpline numbers to scam taxpayers out of money could find it more difficult, with HMRC announcing they are cracking down on the practice.
The taxman said it had worked with Ofcom and the telecommunications industry to prevent spoofing of over 1,050 numbers used by scammers to imitate HMRC, many beginning with 0300 – its extension number.
It said it had ‘reduced to zero the number of phone scams spoofing genuine HMRC numbers’ since introducing the controls last month, resulting in the tax authority receiving 25 per cent fewer reports compared to March.
Those seeking to use HMRC’s number to scam taxpayers face a crackdown that should hopefully prevent them from defrauding the public
Gareth Shaw, head of money at consumer group Which?, said: ‘Number spoofing can be incredibly hard to spot, so it is good to see HMRC, one of the most impersonated firms, taking action to stop fraudsters from exploiting their helpline number and identity.’
The taxman said it received nearly 105,000 reports of phone scams against UK taxpayers in the last tax year, up nearly 100,000 on 2017-18, when it received 7,778 reports.
It said such spoofing scams 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.’
Last November, HMRC warned of the first scam
Those with university email addresses were bombarded with fake tax refund emails, claiming they were owed large amounts of money.
HMRC said it only contacts those who have already received letters about owing money to the taxman, but said elderly and vulnerable taxpayers were particularly at risk from spoof scam phone calls.
Financial secretary to the treasury, Jesse Norman, 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.’