HMRC Stop Thousands of Scam Messages

HM Revenue and Customs manages to stop thousands of taxpayers from receiving scam text messages.

HMRC Claims 90% Success Rate.

During the recent Take Five To Stop Fraud Week, the tax authority worked to raise awareness of fraud ahead of the self-assessment deadline. Take Five To Stop Fraud Week is part of the national campaign from Financial Fraud Action UK and the UK Government, backed by the banking industry coming together to tackle fraud.

HMRC were happy to announce that they had managed to block 90% of the most convincing texts before they reached the phones of taxpayers.

There are few business owners and taxpayers who haven’t received some form of fraudulent message claiming to be from HMRC. One of the more damaging scams has been from fraudsters alleging to be from HMRC who  send text messages to unsuspecting members of the public.

Identity Theft From Fraudulent Text Messages

The fake HMRC messages all make false claims, usually suggesting that a tax rebate is due to the recipient. Messages then link to websites which collect personal information or spread malware. The result of these messages is often identity fraud and theft.

The results can be extremely damaging, including bank account access and a range of other fraudulent behaviour.

HMRC Never Contact Via Text or Email

HMRC have made it clear many times that they will never contact customers who are due a tax refund by text message or by email. Despite this, frauds of this nature have increased in in numbers in recent years.

The reports from HMRC suggest that people are nine times more likely to fall for text-message scams than other forms, such as email because they can appear more legitimate. Many of the texts display HMRC as the sender, rather than a phone number.

Combating Fraudulent Messages

Working together with public and private partners, HMRC, began a pilot in April 2017 to combat text messages of this kind.

The technology developed, identifies fraudulent texts stops them from being delivered. Since the pilot began, there has been a 90% reduction in customer reports around the spoofing of these specific HMRC-related tags on SMS and a five-fold reduction in malicious SMS reports.

In the period from March 2017 to December 2017, the reports of these scams reduce from 5,000 per month to less than 1,000 per month.

Tackling All Forms Of Fraud

In the last 12 months HMRC has made considerable progress in tackling fraudulent emails and websites. HMRC has completed the removal of 16,000 malicious websites, so that even if texts are delivered the associated phishing website they link to will not be there. HMRC has also managed to stop customers receiving more than 300 million emails which purported to have come from the tax authority.

Director of HMRC customer services, Angela MacDonald, is reported as saying:

“HMRC is focused on becoming the most digitally advanced tax authority in the world, and a big part of that relates to keeping our customers safe from online scammers. We won’t rest until these criminals are out of avenues to exploit. We have made significant progress is cutting down these types of crime, but one of the most effective ways to tackle it is still to help the public spot the tell-tale signs of fraud.”

It is hoped that HMRC will continue to make progress in this area, but business owners and individuals need to remain vigilant. Access to HMRC payment can only be made through the official Government Gateway, or via your accountant.

If in doubt, contact HMRC or your accountant directly to avoid the risk of becoming a victim of fraud.

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