New anti-fraud measures have helped stop thousands of criminals spoofing HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) phone lines, a new report has revealed.
According to the tax authority, new “defensive controls” have prevented the spoofing of HMRC’s most widely recognised phone numbers – often beginning with 0300 – protecting millions of taxpayers across the UK.
Spoofing involves mimicking a legitimate phone number to trick the victim into thinking an inbound caller is a credible company or organisation. Last year alone, the general public reported more than 100,000 incidents of this type of fraud.
Since deploying the new controls, HMRC warned that criminals may still try and use less credible numbers to undertake their scams, but much less effectively. According to the regulator, its controls have helped reduce the frequency of spoofing fraud by some 25 per cent.
Commenting on the report, Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: “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 is encouraging to see that these newly developed controls by HMRC have already achieved a reduction in the number of calls spoofing genuine HMRC numbers. If you believe you have fallen victim to a fraudster, please report it to Action Fraud.”
Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman, added: “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.”
The latest measures add to HMRC’s ongoing clampdown on fraud. According to the regulator, its work has helped take down more than 12,000 fake ‘phishing’ websites and reduce text scams by 90 per cent.
How to spot a scam (from HMRC)
Thanks to HMRC’s controls, scammers will now be forced to use much less credible looking numbers but you should still be vigilant as scammers may try spoof other numbers. Our advice for avoiding phone scams is:
- 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 details of suspicious calls claiming to be from HMRC to firstname.lastname@example.org and texts to 60599, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool if you suffer financial loss
- check GOV.UK for how to avoid and report scams and recognise genuine HMRC contact
- listen to an example of what a phone scam sounds like on Twitter
- if you think you have received an HMRC related phishing or bogus email or text message, you can check it against examples.