Fake taxmen foiled: Spoof calls from telephone fraudsters are BLOCKED as Ministers step in to stop the scammers who were targeting 10,000 a day
- The fraudsters have plundered tens of millions of pounds from elderly people
- Numbers they ‘hijack’ have been put on blacklist with mobile network providers
- Chancellor Philip Hammond promised a crackdown on fraud earlier this year
Telephone fraudsters posing as taxmen have been blocked from ‘spoofing’ HMRC numbers in a major victory for the Mail.
Ministers hailed the move as a ‘huge step forward’ in stopping scammers who target 10,000 Britons a day.
The fraudsters have plundered tens of millions of pounds from elderly and vulnerable residents by tricking them into believing they are talking to HMRC.
But the numbers they ‘hijack’ – which are used by Britons who want to call the taxman – have now been placed on a blacklist with mobile phone network providers. It has already led to reports of cases of the scam falling by a quarter.
Telephone fraudsters posing as taxmen have been blocked from ‘spoofing’ HMRC numbers in a major victory for the Mail (stock image)
HMRC doesn’t use the numbers for outgoing calls, but taxpayers can still use them to call in.
Chancellor Philip Hammond promised a crackdown earlier this year after undercover Mail reporters infiltrated a fake call centre operating in India to expose the industrial scale of the fake tax scam.
The fraudsters proudly demonstrated how they used sophisticated computer software to make it appear they were calling UK residents from HMRC helpline numbers, often beginning with 0300.
The crooks then threatened their targets – selected from online phone directories – with immediate prosecution and jail if they refused to pay non-existent tax debts.
Many victims described how they agreed to pay up to £60,000 to the scammers after checking the number online during a call from the fraudsters and finding it appeared to belong to HMRC.
Last year alone, HMRC received more than 100,000 phone scam reports – up from just 400 three years previously.
Chancellor Philip Hammond promised a crackdown earlier this year after undercover Mail reporters infiltrated a fake call centre
It introduced the controls, created in partnership with the telecommunications industry and Ofcom, after the Mail investigation.
Since they started in April no phone scams have succeeded in spoofing HMRC numbers.
This has already resulted in the authority receiving 25 per cent fewer overall scam reports against the previous month.
The bar on spoofing helpline numbers is the first time it has been used by a government department and could be used to help stop other scammers.
Financial Secretary Jesse Norman said: ‘This is a huge step forward in the fight against phone fraud. HMRC’s new controls will help to protect thousands of hard-working taxpayers from these criminals.
‘Vigilance will always be important but this is a significant blow to the phone cheats.’
Pauline Smith, head of the national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud, said: ‘Phone calls are one of the top ways for fraudsters to make contact with their victims.
Between April 2018 and March 2019, one in four phishing reports made to Action Fraud were about fraudulent phone calls.
The fraudsters have plundered tens of millions of pounds from elderly and vulnerable residents by tricking them into believing they are talking to HMRC (stock image)
‘It is encouraging to see that these controls developed by HMRC have already achieved a reduction in the number of calls spoofing genuine numbers.’
HMRC said it would continue to work with network providers to prevent its numbers being used fraudulently.
Scammers may still try to use other UK numbers to call potential victims but these will now be easier to spot.
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