| Latest HMRC figures display a downward trend in reports overall throughout the past year. Reports of scammers impersonating HMRC in phone calls peaked at 79,477 in March 2021 and fell to just 2,491 in December 2021.
The fall in scam call reports to HMRC has also been seen elsewhere with a 92 per cent drop in phishing email reports and a 97 per cent drop in scam text reports over the last year.
HMRC claims these results are testament to some of the work of teams across HMRC in tackling these attempts to defraud people, including dedicated customer protection teams and helplines, tools to refer scams, and use of innovative technologies. It also signals that the public is more aware of cyber criminals and the methods they use to trick people.
These combined to help to move HMRC from third most phished brand globally to outside the top 100.
Mike Fell, HMRC’s Head of Cyber Security Operations, said: “Our advice is - never let yourself be rushed. If someone contacts you saying they are from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard. HMRC will never ring up threatening arrest, only criminals do that. Contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so take your time and check HMRC scams advice on GOV.UK.”
Some HMRC-themed scams originate abroad. HMRC works closely with national and international law enforcement agencies to combat scams, including collaboration with India as a key international partner in tackling the organised crime groups that run these scams.
Work by the Indian authorities last year resulted in multiple arrests and the closure of criminal call centre operations. In June 2021, 51 people were arrested at two call centres in Delhi, India, that were dedicated to facilitating HMRC scams.
HMRC has a dedicated Customer Protection team working on cyber and phone crime around the clock, closing down scams and sharing intelligence with law enforcement agencies. HMRC also deploys innovative technologies to prevent misleading and malicious communications that impersonate its genuine e-mail channels, from ever reaching the public. Since 2017 these technical controls have allowed HMRC to prevent 500 million bogus emails reaching customers.
More recently, new controls have prevented 90 per cent of the most convincing text messages from reaching the public and joint working with industry partners has prevented the spoofing of most of HMRC’s helpline numbers.
In the last year, HMRC has responded to 670,793 referrals of suspicious contact from the public, with 283,157 of these cases offering bogus tax rebates. Others threaten arrest for tax evasion or offer fake financial support.
HMRC also works with the telecoms industry to remove phone numbers being used to commit HMRC-related phone scams. In December 2021, four phone numbers being used to commit HMRC-related phone scams were removed, which is likely to have prevented hundreds of scam calls being made.
HMRC uses a range of modern methods when communicating with its customers. Criminals will often then try to duplicate those methods to take advantage of people. HMRC is doing everything it can to stay one step ahead of the criminals to keep its customers and their information safe.
Search ‘scams’ on GOV.UK for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact and how to avoid scams. Forward suspicious texts claiming to be from HMRC to 60599 and emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Report tax scam phone calls on GOV.UK.
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