Reports of phone scams tripled in January

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The number of people reporting phone scams tripled between December and January.

Figures from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said that reports surged from 10,997 in December 2020 to 33,053 in January 2021.

Scammers tried to cash in as people continued to work from home, with a rise in dodgy texts and emails too.

Reports of suspicious text messages climbed from 11,192 to 26,643 in January while phishing email reports rose too, from 39,564 to 46,210.

January is the height of the self-assessment tax period and criminals pretended to be HMRC officials to target taxpayers.

A common scheme is to offer bogus tax rebates, along with threatening legal action over unpaid tax and offering fake grants or support.

A newer operation involves fraudsters calling people to say their National Insurance number has been used in an illegal scam.

In doing so, they either demand a payment on a false debt, or harvest victims’ personal and financial details.

The coronavirus pandemic has also given criminals a new angle – they’ve been targeting people with fake offers of Government support for individuals and bsuinesses.

HMRC has responded to 259,675 reports of phone scams in total over the past year, up 31 per cent on the one before.

Working with Ofcom and the telecoms industry, it has removed more than 2,780 phone numbers that were being used to commit HMRC-related phone scams.

It has also pushed for internet service providers to take down 366 Covid-related fraud pages and detected 387 financial scams relating to the pandemic since March 2020.

Most of them were via bogus text messages.

A spokesperson for HMRC said: “If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help, are due a tax refund or owe tax, or asks for bank or other personal details, it might be a scam. Check gov.uk for our scams checklist and to find out how to report tax scams.

“If you can’t verify the identity of the caller, HMRC recommends that you do not speak to them.”

How can you thwart scammers?

Stop: Take a moment to think before parting with your information or money.

Do not give out private information or reply to text messages, and do not download attachments or click on links in texts or emails you were not expecting.

Challenge: It is OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests – only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Search “scams” on gov.uk for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact and how to avoid and report scams.

Protect: Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599.

Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam and report it to Action Fraud.



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