HMRC successful in ‘halting’ 90 per cent of scam text messages

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) recently issued a press release in relation to its successes combating scam text messages sent out by fraudsters posing as HMRC officials.

The tax authority confirmed that its ongoing efforts to curb this kind of cyber crime – which can cost unsuspecting victims hundreds of pounds, not to mention the loss of sensitive data – have been remarkably successful in recent months.

In April 2017, HMRC kick-started a crackdown on text message scams after external research found that Britons are approximately nine times more likely to fall for a text message scam than any other form of unsolicited contact which appears to be from a reputable organisation.

HMRC said that ever since a pilot scheme involving innovative new anti-fraud technology was launched around this time, it had been successful in ‘halting’ 90 per cent of all scam text messages purporting to be from the Revenue.

In its press release, HMRC explained how the new technology works.

“The new technology identifies fraud texts with ‘tags’ that suggest it’s from HMRC and stops them from being delivered.

“Since the pilot began, there has been a 90 per cent reduction in customer reports around the spoofing of these specific HMRC-related tags on SMS and a five-fold reduction in malicious SMS reports,” they said.

However, separate reports appear to suggest that other kinds of HMRC scams are still at large.

In recent weeks, LoveMoney magazine has been trying to raise awareness of an email scam which urges recipients to create a Government Gateway account in order to receive a fictitious tax rebate they are apparently owed.

In England and Wales, anyone who files a self-assessment tax return does indeed need a Government Gateway account in order to interact with HMRC. However, these bogus emails are inviting recipients to click on a link which redirects them to a fraudulent web page, requesting reams of personal information from the potential victim.

HMRC is advising taxpayers that it “will never contact customers who are due a tax refund by text message or by email.”

Meanwhile, Moore Thompson are reminding our clients to ignore any unsolicited email or text contact purporting to be from HMRC. If in doubt, consult HMRC’s guidance on how to spot genuine contact here.