Sophisticated scams are becoming increasingly common, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, taxpayers need to be vigilant of fraudsters claiming to be calling about HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) matters.
In one instance, a distressed client contacted our team after receiving a fraudulent telephone call. The fraudster claimed to be a ‘court officer’ from Cardiff High Court, phoning to inform our client that a case against them, regarding a £5k HMRC non-payment, was taking place in a court that day.
This convincing scammer quoted their name, court phone number, a reference number and directed our client to a website that attempts to validate his credentials. For an unsuspecting client or taxpayer, this seems eminently plausible.
Furthermore, the fraudster suggested that to avoid escalating the matter, the client had three options;
- Pay the debt immediately to settle the case or
- Pay the money to the court, to remain until the dispute finishes.
- Proceed with the court hearing and deal with the High Court Sheriffs the next day, who would subsequently incur additional costs
After being told a ‘cleared funds’ bank transfer was the only acceptable payment method, despite visa debit card payments being usually accepted by courts as cleared funds, the client challenged this statement before the fraudster ended the call.
Unfortunately, cases such as these are becoming more common. Many HMRC-related phone scams target the vulnerable by using the Government department’s brand, which adds credibility to the fraudster’s call.
HMRC received more than 60,000 reports of phone scams in the six months leading up to January 2019, an increase of 360 per cent from the six months prior.
We would like to remind all clients that HMRC would never chase payment without issuing prior and correct correspondence.
If you are concerned about a potential HMRC scam, ensure that you speak to an expert before making any payment or revealing any personal information.