Growing numbers of small firms are being targeted by fraudsters purporting to be HM Revenue and Customs to try and scam unsuspecting entrepreneurs out of their money.
This latest scam sees fraudsters phone small business owners claiming an arrest warrant has been filed in their name due to unpaid taxes or debts.
To make the scam even more believable, fraudsters are cloning genuine HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) phone numbers to make it appear they are a reputable authority. The most common number used is 0300 2003300, which is HMRC’s official telephone helpline.
An HMRC spokesman said: “HMRC takes security extremely seriously. We aware ware that some people have received telephone calls from individuals claiming to be from HMRC.
“We have a well-known brand, which criminals abuse to add credibility to their scams.
“These scams often involve people receiving a call out of the blue and being told that HMRC is investigating them.
“If you can’t verify the identity of the caller, we recommend that you do not speak to them.”
Fraudsters that cannot get hold of small firms immediately are also leaving voicemails and text messages, asking them to call back on the telephone number provided.
When victims return the call, they are informed about a ‘case’ being built against them for unpaid taxes or debts and that they must be paid immediately or risk facing an HMRC tax investigation.
The scammers tend to ask for payment in the form of iTunes gift card voucher codes, which should be enough to raise suspicion with most people.
The fraudsters get unsuspecting victims to read out serial codes on the back of their iTunes gift cards over the phone.
University students have also been the subject of fraudulent tax refund emails. HMRC has received thousands of fraud reports from students using seemingly legitimate university email addresses to avoid detection.
These phishing emails entice students to click a link within the email and enter their banking and personal details, allowing fraudsters direct access to steal funds from their victims.
Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “HMRC will never inform you about tax refunds by email, text or voicemail.
“If you receive one of these messages it is a scam. Do not click on any links in these messages, and forward them to HMRC’s phishing email address ([email protected]).”