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Be Scam Smart – resurfacing of an old telephone scam

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We have previously reported with advice on how to avoid falling victim to scams from people purporting to be from HMRC.

These have escalated during the COVID-19 lockdown period with scammers exploiting the situation of more people working from home than ever before, with both individuals and corporations being targeted.

In April, we highlighted phishing emails or fake text messages being sent by scammers claiming to be from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) asking the recipient to click on the attached link to claim back tax owed and others to claim benefits associated with COVID-19 financial assistance. In these cases, scammers fraudulently claim to be from a trusted source to gain personal information including bank details with the incentive of financial assistance that many would find welcome at this time.

More recently, it seems that an old telephone scam from 2018 is being used again. It purports to be from somebody called Denis Gray from HMRC, asking the recipient to call him back as a matter of urgency:

This is Officer Denis Gray of HM Revenue and Customs – The hotline for my division is 0203 827 3368, I repeat 0203 827 3368. Do not disregard this message and call us back.

Instead of promising a tax rebate or financial assistance, this telephone scam uses the threat of unpaid tax and litigation as an incentive to call. Should you phone the number back, you are then told by the person answering the call that they have been allocated as your case worker. The scammer sounds authentic, even giving you an apparent ID and case number and claiming that the call is being recorded for legal reasons.

The scammer will then claim that you owe an amount of unpaid taxes due to a miscalculation, which has come to light due to a five-year audit at HMRC. Should you ask for verification of the scammer’s ID, you will be given a fraudulent website and email link that look as though they are from HMRC.

Protect yourself by remembering that HMRC will never call or send you an email or text message which tells you about a penalty or tax rebate, or which asks for your personal or payment information.

At Mercer & Hole, we aim to alert our clients about scams we have been made aware of, but please be Scam Smart and remember what not to do:

  • Do not call back a number claiming to be from HMRC no matter how urgent the caller sounds
  • Do not give any personal or bank details over the phone
  • Do not respond to any electronic communication in relation to monies via email
  • Do not click on any links in any related message
  • Do not forward on the clickable links as a way of highlighting/warning others

If you do receive a suspicious phone call, you can help HMRC’s investigations by emailing phishing@hmrc.gov.uk with:

  • your phone number
  • the caller’s phone number
  • the time and date of the call
  • a brief description of the call

You can also forward suspicious text messages to 60599 for HMRC staff to investigate – the text will be charged at your network rate. Also, e-mail examples can be sent to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk

If you are ever in doubt, please call your usual Mercer & Hole contact or get in touch with one of our partners to ask for advice.

We are always happy to help. The Mercer & Hole team are here to support you, your family, and your business. Our COVID-19 Business Support Hub is regularly updated with information to support you and help provide clarity during this uncertain time.

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