Regulation

HMRC issues ‘defensive’ controls to prevent phone fraudsters

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has issued new “defensive controls” to put an end to fraudsters “spoofing” the tax authority’s most recognisable helpline numbers.

According to the firm, fraudsters have increasingly mimicked legitimate HMRC helpline numbers (often beginning with 0300) to dupe taxpayers and steal money. Last year alone, HMRC received over 100,000 phone scam reports.

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The ‘spoofing’ scam 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.

The new controls, created in partnership with the telecommunications industry and Ofcom, will prevent spoofing of HMRC’s most used inbound helpline numbers and are the first to be used by a government department in the UK.

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Financial secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman MP, 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.”

Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, added: “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.”

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