Scamwatch: arrest warrant fraud

Elderly Britons targeted in new HMRC phone scam.

Scamwatch: arrest warrant fraud

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, we issue a warning about a new HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) scam being used to scare older Britons in paying out money they do not owe.

How does it work?

Earlier this month, an 87-year-old man living in the Scottish Borders region was conned out of £500 by callers who told him he was the subject of an arrest warrant.

The fraudsters behind the scheme called him twice in two days, claiming to represent HMRC. They told him that the warrant would be cancelled if he bought £500 in iTunes gift cards at Tesco.

However, when he did as he was asked and gave them the voucher serial numbers, they told him he had to spend another £1,300 to clear his account. It was at this point that the victim became suspicious and sought help from the police.

Local constable Kirsty Neish told the BBC: "Unfortunately a lot of scams are directed at the elderly and vulnerable in our community and processes that immediately raise suspicions to some are not as obvious to others.

"Payment by iTunes vouchers or contact details such as a Gmail address may not raise suspicions if you don't know what they are."

How can I avoid being caught out?

It is always best to refuse to give personal information or make a payment to someone who calls you up out of the blue - even if they claim to be from an organisation such as HMRC - without double checking first.

The police are therefore advising members of the public who become suspicious of unsolicited callers to hang up and then wait at least five minutes to call the organisation concerned on an official number to check the issue is legitimate.

"Never use the number provided. Always use the number you would usually use to contact the company," the police said.

Where possible, it is also sensible to use a different phone line to make the call.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

If you are called by a fraudster claiming to be from an organisation such as HMRC, go online or use the phone book to find a number for the organisation in question and call it to report the crime.

You can also contact the police via Action Fraud (0300 123 2040) to ensure they are aware of the scam and help them catch those behind it.