HM Revenue and Customs has put in place new controls that it claims “have put an end to fraudster’s spoofing the tax authority’s most recognisable helpline numbers”.
Phone scams in which the caller claims to be from HMRC are common, with more than 100,000 instances reported last year. In many cases, scammers have been able to use technology to make calls appear to be from genuine HMRC numbers – which often begin with 0300.
The department said that the calls enjoyed success as, when citizens used search engines to check the provenance of an inbound number, they would find that it appeared to belong to HMRC.
But the tax agency has worked alongside telecoms network providers and Ofcom to create controls that prevent fraudsters being able to mimic genuine HMRC numbers.
In the last 10 months, the department has managed to get rid of 1,050 spoof numbers. And, since the controls were implemented in April, no scam calls have been able to successfully spoof an HMRC number.
This has, at a stroke, reduced by a quarter the number of attempted scams reported to HMRC.
“Criminals may still try and use less credible numbers to deploy their scams – but that means they will be easier to spot,” the department said
HMRC noted that it never rings citizens to discuss debts or payments of which they were not already aware. It added that changes being made this month will mean that callers never have to read out their card details to an operator.
Financial secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman said: "This is a huge step forward in the fight against phone fraud. hMRC’s new controls will help to protect thousands of hardworking taxpayers and their families from these heartless criminals. Vigilance will always be important but this is a significant blow to the phone cheats."