Fraudsters are ‘cloning’ the HMRC phone number in what is being termed as the ‘arrest warrant scam’
The number appears to be a genuine HMRC call but is actually a scam to persuade people to transfer cash.
The official income tax helpline for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is being used to threaten victims by claiming warrants have been issued for their arrest because of unpaid taxes.
People who use the web to check the number – usually 0300 200 3300 – are finding the top Google result confirms it belongs to HMRC.
Some phones will automatically display the number as “HM Revenue & Customs”.
Despite the apparently legitimate number, the call is actually from fraudsters.
This is VERY similar to scams that have been running in both Canada where 60,000 Canadians have complained about similar ‘cloned calls’ from the CRA and in America, where over four years, more than 15,000 victims in the United States lost “hundreds of millions” of dollars to the sophisticated I.R.S scam, and more than 50,000 individuals had their personal information misused. Thankfully in both the above cases several key arrests have subsequently been made by the Indian Authorities in Mumbai.
A growing number of complaints and warnings on social media from victims and police suggest that some people in the UK are now being fooled too.
Scammers have often left voice messages and emails pretending to be from HMRC, but the number “cloning” tactic could be enough to persuade some people to transfer money.
HMRC would never call you out of the blue asking for money. If you’re ever in doubt, put the phone down and call HMRC directly.
This type of fraud, known as ‘number spoofing’, works by fraudsters cloning the telephone number of the organisation or person they want to impersonate, which in some cases can be the HMRC. The fraudsters will gain the victim’s trust by highlighting the number to them, claiming that this is proof of their identity, before trying to scam them in various ways.
You should never assume that someone is who they say they are just because their number matches that of an organisation or person you know.
A spokesman for Action Fraud says “If someone tries to draw your attention to the number on your caller ID display, you should immediately become suspicious.”
Spoofing a phone number is possible due to the use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technologies, which make it very easy for callers to falsify their numbers and difficult for authorities to prevent.