In a press release issued over the weekend, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has revealed that it has saved taxpayers some £2.4 million by cracking down on ‘call forwarding’ scams.
The news comes in line with Scams Awareness Month, which will run throughout June.
According to the tax authority, fraudsters are increasingly attempting to extract funds from unsuspecting taxpayers by tricking them into calling external, premium rate numbers in order to make contact with HMRC.
Victims are re-directed to bogus websites which “look similar to HMRC’s official site” and then encouraged to call non-HMRC telephone numbers “with extortionate costs” in order to get in touch with an HMRC adviser.
These “call forwarding services” are costing taxpayers dear – as HMRC’s official helplines will always be either free or “low cost” to phone, it says.
Fortunately, the tax authority claims that in recent months, it has “successfully challenged the ownership of these websites” and “taken them out of the hands of cheats.”
As a direct result of its efforts, HMRC estimates that it has saved members of the public “at least” £2.4 million.
Commenting on the good news, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride, said: “We know that HMRC is the most spoofed Government brand as criminals try to take advantage of the fact that everyone has some involvement with the tax authority.
“In this particular case, scammers try to dupe the public into paying large sums for services that are available for free or low cost. This is a brazen con, charging premium rates whilst simply redirecting calls to the real HMRC numbers that are available at low or no cost.
“It is a testament to the hard work of HMRC that they have prevented criminals extracting £2.4 million from the public.”