Vulnerable and elderly people are being told they owe large amounts of tax which they can only pay off through digital vouchers and gift cards.
HMRC has issued a warning over fraudsters who are praying on victims by cold-calling them and impersonating members of staff from the Revenue.
Figures from Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre, show there have been more that 1,500 reports of this scam between January 2016 and August 2017.
The numbers have increased in recent months, with the vast majority of victims being over the age of 65 and suffering an average financial loss of £1,150.
HMRC, which labelled the scammers as “very confident, convincing and utterly ruthless”, insists it would never use this method of payment to process a tax bill.
Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s director general of customer services, said:
“We urge people to warn elderly relatives about this scam and remind them that they should never trust anyone who phones out of the blue and asks them to pay a tax bill. If you think you have been a victim you should contact Action Fraud immediately.”
How does it work?
Scammers cold-call their victims and impersonate a member of staff from HMRC.
The targets are told they owe a large amount of tax that they can only pay off using gift cards or digital vouchers from popular retailers, such as Apple’s iTunes store.
Once the vouchers or card are purchased, the victims are told to read the redemption code to the fraudster, who sells on the codes to buy more expensive products at the expense of the victim.
Intimidating methods, such as threatening to seize the victim’s home or involving the police, are used in an attempt to manipulate victims into complying.
HMRC claims the use of digital vouchers is an increasingly attractive scam as they are easy to sell on and hard to trace once used.
How to report scams
If you or a vulnerable relative have been targeted by this scam or con artists in general, you should report it immediately to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via the Action Fraud website.