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HMRC has revealed it has saved the public over £2.4m by tackling fraudsters that trick the public into using premium rate phone numbers for services that HMRC provide for free
The estimated savings come from HMRC’s crackdown on websites created by scammers that look similar to HMRC’s official site and then direct the public to call numbers with extortionate costs.
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.
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.
HMRC has successfully challenged the ownership of these websites and says analysis has shown that had the tax authority not taken this action then the public would have lost £2.4m to phone scams. In the past year, the tax authority has recovered 105 domains which were being used to host a range of misleading content.
Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury, said: “We know that HMRC is the most spoofed government brand as criminals try to take advantage of the fact that everyone has some involvement with the tax authority.
‘This is a brazen con, charging premium rates whilst simply redirecting calls to the real HMRC numbers that are available at low or no cost.’
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