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Premium rate fraudsters

There seems to be an endless growth in illegal sites who aim to make money by claiming to be associated with HMRC.

The Government announced recently that it had scuppered one of these schemes.

According to HMRC:

Scammers create websites that look similar to HMRC’s official site and then direct the public to call numbers with extortionate costs in comparison to the low cost and no cost service HMRC provides. These sites promote non-HMRC premium rate phone numbers as a means of reaching HMRC, but these are merely call forwarding services which connect callers to HMRC at a significant price. HMRC’s own 0300 numbers are mostly free or charged at the national landline rate.

In other cases, sites charge for forwarding information to HMRC which can be provided free of charge through hmrc.gov.uk.

Hapless taxpayers caught by these websites will find themselves with hefty phone costs for being routed to “free” HMRC helplines. The specific tactics and costs on each site vary, but the maximum cost of a call is £3.60 a minute, capped at £36 per call. Anecdotal reports show the average victim reporting a cost of around £15 per call.

 

To counter this activity, HMRC has successfully challenged the ownership of these websites, masquerading as official websites, and taken them out of the hands of cheats. Analysis has shown that had HMRC not taken this action then the public would have lost £2.4m to these phone scams.

This announcement comes at the start of scam awareness month organised by Citizens Advice which is running throughout June 2018. In 2017, HMRC took a formal approach to denying others ownership of misleading domains, so far 105 domains have been recovered which were being used to host a range of misleading content.

Readers who need to contact HMRC can find the official contact numbers at https://www.gov.uk/contact-hmrc.