HM Revenue and Customs says it has stopped thousands of taxpayers from receiving scam text messages, with 90 percent of the most “convincing texts” now halted before they reach their phones.
The taxman released the figures as it worked to raise awareness of the tell-tale signs of fraud ahead of the Self-Assessment deadline at the end of last month.
Here’s how the scam works. Fraudsters alleging to be from HMRC send text messages to unsuspecting members of the public.
In these messages they will make false claims, such as suggesting they are due a tax rebate.
However, those messages will usually include links to websites which harvest personal information or spread malware. This can in turn lead to identity fraud and the theft of people’s personal savings. So beware.
And remember that HMRC will never contact people who are due a tax refund by text message or by email.
The tax authority says that people are nine times more likely to fall for text message scams than other forms like email because they can appear more legitimate, with many texts displaying ‘HMRC’ as the sender rather than a phone number.
HMRC has also been working hard to tackle the threat of fraudulent emails and websites.
It has revealed that in the last 12 months it has initiated the removal of 16,000 malicious websites, meaning even if the texts are delivered the associated phishing website is likely to have been removed.
And by introducing technical controls, HMRC has also stopped customers receiving the staggering figure of more than 300 million emails purporting to come from the tax authority.
However, HMRC’s director of customer services, Angela MacDonald, says there is no room for complacency.
She says: “As email and website scams become less effective, fraudsters are increasingly turning to text messages to con taxpayers. But as these numbers show, we won’t rest until these criminals are out of avenues to exploit.
“We have made significant progress is cutting down these types of crime, but one of the most effective ways to tackle it is still to help the public spot the tell-tale signs of fraud.”