Brits continuing to fall for HMRC and Apple gift card scam

Posted by George Coburn in Identity Theft on 30 January 2017 - George is a Credit Analyst at checkmyfile

At the face of it, it seems a bit odd that the company responsible for collecting taxes would request payment from individuals in the form of an Apple iTunes gift card, but according to Action Fraud, this scam has continued to be profitable for fraudsters. The scheme first came to light in May last year and Action Fraud have received hundreds of complaints since then.

Victims have been contacted in several ways but in each case, they were convinced to purchase vouchers for Apple in order to clear some form of tax arrears. One method employed by the fraudsters is to contact would-be-victims and leave an answer phone message claiming to be from Her Majesty Revenues and Customers (HMRC) and requesting they call back to discuss an outstanding warrant for their arrest. When they phone the fraudsters, they are convinced that payment needs to be made if they want to avoid prosecution. Not wanting to get arrested, the victim makes a seemingly irrational decision to pay the outstanding tax by purchasing Apple vouchers.

Another tactic employed is spoofing HMRC’s actual telephone number and this is when it shows on the victim’s telephone that they’re receiving a call from 0300 200 3300. The target is then free to check online to see who the caller is and this adds authenticity to the caller’s identity. Again, the caller then convinces the victim that they need to pay unpaid tax and to do this they should purchase Apple vouchers to clear the tax debt.

Finally, victims have reported receiving text messages claiming to be from HMRC requesting a call back about a pending court case. When the victim calls back, they are then told the same story of how they are going to be arrested for outstanding tax and they need to pay using Apple vouchers.

The vouchers themselves are easily sold by the fraudsters and it is hard to trace the fraudster once they’ve been sold on. In order to sell the voucher, the fraudster just needs to know the serial code on the back and this can then be sold to other people.

Action Fraud have reiterated that the HMRC would never sent text messages about rebates or penalties and, more importantly, would never request payment in the form of an iTunes voucher. It is relatively easy for a fraudster to spoof telephone numbers or make it look like they’re from a company so it is advisable to always be cautious when someone, irrespective who they claim to be, phones/texts you asking for payment.

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