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HMRC cracks down on “number-spoofing” phone scams

HMRC has announced that new technology is successfully stopping fraudsters from being able to mimic some of their most popular helpline numbers, in a crack-down on “number-spoofing” scams.

Using the technique, scammers were able to call victims from what appeared to be HMRC’s own phone numbers – making it difficult to tell that the call wasn’t legit.

Scams now easier to spot

HMRC has been using the technology, created in partnership with Ofcom and the telecoms industry, since April 2019 and it has already resulted in the tax authorities receiving 25% fewer spam reports.

Last year HMRC received over 100,000 phone scam reports, where taxpayers received calls which, when checked online, appeared to be actual HMRC numbers. This convinced victims, who were often elderly or vulnerable, that the call must be genuine.

The new controls mean that HMRC has already reduced the number of scams spoofing inbound numbers to zero.

While this is great news, taxpayers are still being warned that scammers can, and will, continue their activities from different numbers.

A spokesperson for HMRC said:

“Criminals may still try and use less credible numbers to deploy their scams – but that means they will be easier to spot.”

According to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, phone calls are one of the most common scamming methods, with a quarter of all fraud reports made to them concerning fraudulent calls.

Consumer group Which? welcomed the anti-fraud measures HMRC have taken. Their head of money, Gareth Shaw, said:

“For too long, fraud victims have lost life-changing sums of money to scammers they believed to be legitimate.

Number-spoofing can be incredibly hard to spot, so it is good to see HMRC, one of the most impersonated firms, taking action to stop fraudsters from exploiting their helpline number and identity.”

Further info – spotting scams

Fraudsters will always find ways to trick people into parting with their cash, but there are ways to identify if you are being targeted by a scam caller.