The perils of fraud continue, especially online and telephone attacks pretending to be HM Revenue & Customs (“HMRC”). The following is a true story from a client of mine from last week:
“Today I received a disturbing recorded message phone call saying that a law suit was to be brought against me by HMRC. I pressed 1 to be put through to my “case officer”. I was then put through to a man who said his name is Roger William (but he did not sound like he was from the UK). He asked if I had pen and paper and asked me to write down my case reference as K 909643 and his badge ID as HM 79453. He asked my name and address and for my NI number all of which I gave him.
He informed me that HMRC investigation/audit of my taxes during 2002-2016 had resulted in HMRC finding a deliberate underpayment of £4,205. He also said the call was being recorded by HMRC and M15. He then asked me to remain silent whilst he told me what would happen if the lawsuit proceeded – including freezing of all bank accounts, income streams, liens on property and even withdrawal of my driving licence.
When he finished this frankly very menacing scenario he told me that I could either pay up straightaway out of court, or go through the court case and risk losing and be fined more than £40,000. He said I could ask questions and I said that my tax returns were prepared by my accountant and then he asked me what I would prefer to do and I replied that obviously avoid any underpayment and settle any monies correctly due. He asked me if I had the money to settle and I replied ”possibly” but that I wanted to speak to my accountant first. He said he would arrange for an HMRC officer to come to my home within 24 hours and speak face to face with my accountant and to produce the court papers and evidence and to receive the payment.
This confirmed my suspicions and I asked for his phone number so that I could call him back after contacting my accountant, but he didn’t seem to want to give this and I said I thought this was a scam and insisted he give me his phone number. He took offence at this and said at no point had he asked for my bank details or credit or debit card numbers. He asked me if I had a mobile phone and he wanted me to give him the number. When I refused he said that if I ended the call I would be arrested. At this point I terminated the call. I was left feeling very shaken and upset by this call and concerned that, despite being quite wary, I had given him my name, address and NI number. The nature of the call was extremely plausible in the first instance and is the first time I have received a call like this.”
Obviously, this fraud attempt was done on the basis that many people would naturally be worried by a debt collection call from HMRC, especially if they are registered taxpayers doing relatively complex tax returns, as my client is. This anxiety is then used to engender a sense of urgency in the mind of the potential victim and they are more likely to fall for the fraud. Indeed, when I spoke to my partners about this, at least one of them has seen a similar fraud attempt on a member of our own team, one which was similar, plausible and initially accepted at face value.
Our client has reported the fraud attempt to www.Actionfraud.police.uk. The risk of identity theft on any information given out to the caller does exist, but it is possible to register for enhanced credit checking services to avoid certain frauds (such as loans or debts being taken in your name).
If you have any doubts about any call received, please ask the caller for more information and their details. A genuine caller will not be upset by this and will allow you to call them back.
Blog written by Graham Wallace
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