Public urged to be vigilant of fraud in which victims are instructed to buy digital vouchers to pay fictitious tax bills
Credit: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images
HM Revenue and Customs and law-enforcement agencies are working with technology giant Apple to combat a scam centred on digital vouchers. The tax agency has urged the public to be vigilant against the ruse, which it claimed is currently engaged in “conning vulnerable and elderly people out of thousands of pounds”.
The perpetrators of the scam pose as HMRC employees and call potential victims to inform them of unpaid tax bills which can only be paid with “digital vouchers or gift cards” – often for Apple’s iTunes store, HMRC said. Victims are reportedly kept on the phone by the perpetrators while they follow instructions to go to a nearby shop, purchase the vouchers as instructed, and read out the redemption codes.
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According to HMRC, these codes are then sold on by the scammers, or used to “purchase high-value products”.
In the 20 months up to August this year, there were 1,500 reports of the scam being perpetrated, figures from national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud indicate. Victims are typically elderly, and the average financial loss is £1,150 per person.
HMRC said that it is “working closely with law enforcement agencies, Apple, and campaign groups” to raise public awareness of the scam and to whom any suspected fraud should be reported. To which end, the public are instructed that they can report instances of this, and any other such scams, via the Action Fraud website.
HMRC’s director general of customer services Angela MacDonald said: “These scammers are very confident, convincing and utterly ruthless. We don’t want to see anyone fall victim to this scam just before Christmas. That’s why we’re working closely with crime fighters to ensure taxpayers know how to avoid it.”
Temporary detective chief inspector Lara Xenoudakis of the City of London Police added: “We have received an increasing number of reports in which we have been told that people are being asked to pay fraudsters in iTunes vouchers. People should be cautious of unsolicited emails, calls or letters and always check directly with HMRC to ensure they are legitimate before responding.”