A woman looks at her phone after being the victim of an HMRC phone scam

How to Avoid HMRC Phone Scams

Being Aware of HMRC phone scams

Most people are well aware of the dangers posed by scammers online. These include bogus websites, hacked email accounts and even fake Facebook accounts. What is just as important to be aware of is the rising prevalence of phone scams. These can affect everyone who uses mobiles or landlines. One particularly nasty HMRC phone scam doing the rounds threatens people with prison if they don’t pay overdue taxes immediately over the phone.

Phone fraud like this can amount to thousands of pounds. Of course, the “overdue tax” is completely made up by the fraudsters and there are no taxes or fees to be paid. It is made to sound utterly convincing and even terrifying. They often affect the most vulnerable in our society.

So how can you tell which phone calls you receive are genuine, and which are fake?

Know What To Look For With HMRC Phone Scams

The first point to be aware of is that HMRC will never call you out of the blue about a debt that you are unaware of. You may have received a letter about it, or already be in the process of paying a debt off with them. If you are self-employed, it may be a debt you have already told them about. If you receive a call about a debt you have never heard of, it is a scam. You should hang up immediately. 

There are reports that the numbers the scammers have used are similar or even identical to the genuine HMRC phone number. It is relatively easy for scammers to “clone” phone numbers like this, so it should not be taken as any evidence that the person on the other end is from the Customs office. 

HMRC will also never threaten you with sending police round to arrest you. There have even been reports of people receiving threats to have their passports cancelled. These are bogus threats, and a sure sign that it is a scam phonecall. 

Does the caller want you to give out your PIN, bank account or credit card details over the phone? If so, this is another warning sign. You should never give your PIN out to anyone. If you feel like it is a fake phone call, or stall to feel threatened, hang up. 

What To Do If You Receive A Scam Phonecall

If you think you have received an HMRC scam call, then hang up immediately. You don’t need to take any further action, but you may wish to inform HMRC of what has happened by emailing them: phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

Scam phone calls are not going away, so it is up to us to be educated on how to detect them and avoid being duped. Always be on the lookout for suspicious activity, especially if you are hearing about a debt for the first time.

If you are ever in doubt, and think you are being targeted by an HMRC phone scam, hang up. 

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