Don’t answer the phone: Be wise to the scammers

Woman picking up the phone
By Philip McNeill, ICAS Head of Taxation (Practice & Small Business)

12 May 2016

Watch out for bogus callers pretending to be HMRC.

Consider the scenario: a woman caller phones the client of an ICAS practitioner firm saying she is from HMRC, that the matter is time sensitive and that the client should phone back on a number supplied.

The number given for to call back was 0203 129 5553 - one which HMRC assures us does not belong to them! The client is elderly and has a mandate for the firm to deal with all relevant tax matters.

How to separate the fake from the genuine

It is very rare for HMRC to contact a client directly when a tax agent has been appointed. Clients should not be expecting direct calls and should consider contacting HMRC on a genuine number, or discussing the contact with their adviser.

Most HMRC numbers now start with 0300; for example the income tax helpline is 0300 200 3300 and the self-assessment line is 0300 200 3310.

HMRC contact numbers can be accessed on the GOV.UK website. There is also information on recognising scams purporting to be from HMRC.

Watch out for the premium rate numbers

Something more to look out for is premium rate numbers masquerading as HMRC contact numbers. This is particularly likely to happen if you search for HMRC phone numbers from a mobile.

The premium numbers work, in that your call will be relayed and connected to HMRC, but you will be paying premium rate charges. Such premium rate numbers often start 0844.

Keeping safe

HMRC has a piece on keeping safe on the agents log whic provides tips on what to look out for in scam emails, and confirms that HMRC will not ask you or your clients for personal or sensitive financial information by email or phone.

More information on cybersecurity can be found on the Government website Cyber Streetwise.


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