Saturday 1 June 2019 2:37 pm

HMRC cracks down on number spoofing scams in fight against fraud

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has put a block in place on numbers that were using spoofing tactics to impersonate genuine tax officials.

Fraudsters had been using so-called number spoofing so that when calling people it would appear as HMRC’s actual phone numbers on their display.

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The financial body said last year there were more than 100,000 attempts to get people to pay fake tax bills.

The total of 104,774 attempted phone scams in 2018 has astronomically risen since 2016, when it was just 407.

HMRC has worked with phone companies to introduce the new technology blocking fake numbers.

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."

Since the new anti-spam methods were introduced in April, HMRC said it has not received a single complaint of the spoofing trick.

"Number spoofing can be incredibly hard to spot, so it is good to see HMRC, one of the most impersonated firms, taking action to stop fraudsters from exploiting their helpline number and identity," said Gareth Shaw, from consumer watchdog Which?.

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"A cross-sector approach is needed to tackle fraud, and it is now vital other public bodies and firms that are commonly impersonated follow this example and work with telecoms companies and Ofcom to stop fraudsters spoofing their numbers and targeting victims."

The same spamming tactics have been used with banks to try and empty customer accounts, and they are working with Ofcom to find ways to crack down on that too.