It would seem that fraudsters, keen to relieve you of your hard earned cash, are switching to phone calls now that email scams are becoming less effective.

HMRC recently issued the following instructions to UK taxpayers and requested that we all assume a new level of vigilance. They said:

If you know someone who has a landline, particularly those who may need protecting such as vulnerable relatives and neighbours, our advice 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 suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC and details of suspicious calls to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and texts to 60599. Alternatively, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online fraud reporting tool, especially if you suffer financial loss
  • check GOV.UK for information on how to avoid and report scams and recognise genuine HMRC contact

The last point is key. If you receive any form of communication – by email or landline – requesting personal information (particularly your bank details) politely close the call and use the official website’s contact details to call back. If you don’t have access to the internet, ask a relative to help or visit your local Citizen’s Advice Centre.

HMRC has made strides in the last year to close down many of the fraudsters’ phone lines, in conjunction with Ofcom they have shut down almost 450 lines. However, we need to remain vigilant. As HMRC have advised:

The tax authority will only ever call you asking for payment on a debt that you are already aware of, either having received a letter about it, or after you’ve told us you owe some tax, for example through a Self-Assessment return.

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