Two men and two women have been arrested as part of an investigation into a suspected multi-million pound phone scam targeting UK taxpayers.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers carried out searches at five addresses in East and West London on Tuesday 28 July. £10,000 in cash was seized along with a quantity of laptop and desktop computers, mobile phones and SIM cards.
Richard Mayer, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Criminals use a range of techniques in tax-related phone scams, including calling unsuspecting taxpayers to offer a bogus tax refund, or threatening them with arrest if they don’t immediately pay fictitious tax bills.
“These scams often target the elderly and vulnerable. We are a well-known brand, which criminals abuse to try and add credibility to their scams.
“If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help, are owed a tax refund or owe tax, and asks for personal or bank details, it might be a scam. Check GOV.UK for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact.
“If you can’t verify the identity of the caller, we recommend that you do not speak to them.
“I would urge anyone with information on these types of scams to report it to HMRC online.”
In the last 12 months HMRC reported 1,742 phone numbers being used in tax-related phone scams to telecommunication companies for takedown, and responded to more than 203,000 reports of phone scams from the public - an increase of 95 per cent on the previous year.
The four were arrested and questioned by HMRC on suspicion of money laundering offences. Investigations are ongoing.
HMRC’s dedicated Customer Protection Team in Cyber Security Operations works to identify and close down scams every day. HMRC has pioneered the use in government of technical controls to stop its helpline numbers being spoofed, so that fraudsters can no longer make it appear that they are calling from HMRC.
The department also works closely with the telecoms industry and Ofcom to block malicious phone numbers.