Households with a landline number should watch out for these types of calls involving fraudsters posing as the taxman and hang up on them, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has said.
The tax authority said that, as it has increasingly cracked down on bogus emails and texts claiming to be from HMRC, a rising number of criminals were turning to the traditional method of cold-calling publicly available phone numbers to steal money from taxpayers. Often these calls are to landline numbers.
Criminals may terrify their victims into paying up by threatening them with legal action or jail. According to Ofcom, nearly 26 million homes have a landline – many of which could be at risk from scams, particularly if they are not ex-directory.
Older and more vulnerable people are often targeted.
HMRC received more than 60,000 reports of phone scams in the six months up to January. This is a surge of 360 per cent compared with the six months before this.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride said: “We have taken major steps to crack down on text and email phishing scams leaving fraudsters no choice but to try and con taxpayers over the phone.
“If you receive a suspicious call to your landline from someone purporting to be from HMRC which threatens legal action, to put you in jail, or payment using vouchers, hang up and report it to HMRC who can work to take them off the network.”
Head of Action Fraud Pauline Smith said: “Fraudsters will call your landline claiming to be from reputable organisations such as HMRC.
“Contact like this is designed to convince you to hand over valuable personal details or your money.
“Don’t assume anyone who calls you is who they say they are. If a person calls and asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be cautious and seek advice.”
The tax authority said it would only ever call someone asking for payment on a debt that they are already aware of, either having received a letter about it, or after they have told it they owe some tax through means such as a self-assessment return.
During the past 12 months, HMRC has worked with the phone networks and Ofcom to close nearly 450 lines being used by fraudsters.