HMRC sees 24% increase in reports of phone scams

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has responded to 242,494 reports of phone scams in the 12 months to September, marking a 24% increase on the previous year.

As people have been spending more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic, criminals have been using the crisis as an opportunity to make bogus cold calls.

A significant proportion of suspicious activity HMRC deals with involves offers of bogus tax rebates.

These scams could trick people into handing over their bank details and other personal information – and may be particularly tempting as people have seen their incomes reduced due to coronavirus.

The revenue body has worked with the telecoms industry and Ofcom to combat the issue.

More than 3,000 phone numbers being used to perpetrate HMRC-related phone scams have been removed in the past year.

In the 12 months to September, HMRC responded to 712,531 referrals from the public relating to suspect contact from people purporting to be the taxman. More than 435,000 of these involved offers of bogus tax rebates.

In September, the revenue body received reports from people of 110,849 scam emails, text messages and phone calls. Nearly half (54,426) of these specifically offered bogus tax rebates.

HMRC also said it has detected 134 coronavirus-related financial scams since March, most of which have involved text messages.