The dangerous rise of the HMRC scam

Just got a call from HMRC stating you owe them money? We have noticed an extraordinary increase of reports concerning HMRC calls, be aware these type of calls are known as HMRC scam.

How does the HMRC scam work? What if its actually the HMRC calling me?

The scam mostly consists in an automated phone call with a prerecorded voice letting you know that you are under investigation from HMRC over an unpaid bill. The message threatens people of taking serious legal actions against them, even claiming that their house is under surveillance. The target is asked to contact urgently a phone number usually based in London, otherwise serious legal consequences will occur.

HMRC Scam related tweets

When calling back the phone number given,  the interlocutor (generally an indian) is particularly threatening. They always follow the same long script regarding the target’s alleged debt. The worried victims are then persuade into settling the debt immediately by disclosing their credit card details.

More recently, this scam has taken a new turn with the increase of fake text messages claiming to be HMRC and offering cash rebates. A link to a dangerous website is often attached to the text. Accessing the website can result in the spread of malware and the leak of the victim’s personal information.

Persistent and ruthless, the scammers appear to be harassing more and more people. Although the messages appears to be sent randomly, vulnerable people such as the elderly are the obvious targets of this scam. HMRC have asked people to warn their elderly relatives about this scam.

call centre

If you receive a suspicious message of this kind, never give out your personal details. Tell the caller you will report the incident to the authorities and immediately end the call. It is advised to block the number to prevent further contact.

How can I spot and protect myself from HMRC scams?

Anti Fraud tools

Use HMRC anti-fraud tools. You can consult HMRC official Help page to help you identify and prevent phishing phone calls and emails. If you think that you may be a potential victim of this scam, you can find examples or scamming emails and text messages that you can check against.

Let’s be honest, it’s very unlikely that HMRC will call you to let you know you are due some money. If you owe money they will let you know by letter or in their official website.

Stay vigilant and be realistic

Learn how to recognise a scam call or text from a genuine contact. Text messages are NEVER used to contact people who are due a tax refund. Automated messages are sometimes used by HMRC about outstanding tax bills, however the Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) will always be mentioned. HMRC will never ask you out personal information out of the blue, such as PIN, password or banking details. Settling of debts can never be processed through such a method.

Or.. just block these calls automatically

Download our CallBlocker app for Iphone and Android and we will block these calls for you. You can also help others by reporting your experience with these type of phone numbers.

Still curious and want to know what happens when you call them back? Have a look at this recorded call.

Join the fight!

HMRC is actively battling against these threats and urging people to report such incidents. Forward suspicious emails to phishing[at]hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and texts to 60599.

What is the TPS and does it actually work in the UK?

Tired of being bombarded with nuisance calls? The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is the official opt-out register promoted as an effective tool to reduce unsolicited calls. Although, our community often complains about receiving nuisance calls despite having registered their number with the TPS.

Is the TPS really useful? Does it work? We have created this practical guide with all you need to know about it.

tps works or not?

What is the TPS?

First thing to know, the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is a FREE service. The direct marketing industry runs and funds the service.

The TPS is the official UK register of domestic phone numbers whose users record their preference not to receive sales or marketing cold calls. Before making a cold call, organisations *MUST* check if the phone number of the receiver is TPS registered.

According to the Privacy and Electronic (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, it is *ILLEGAL* for such organisations to call TPS registered numbers for sales or marketing reasons, unless they have obtained your consent first. Organisations that must abide by this rule include: companies, voluntary organisations, charities and political parties.

The TPS is enforced by law and regulated by Ofcom, which is in charge of maintaining the opt-out register. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the organism responsible of taking enforcement actions towards companies that might break the law by calling people whose numbers are TPS registered, without their prior consent.

How useful is TPS against nuisance calls?

The TPS claims itself very effective to protect its users against nuisance calls. They assure that reputable companies are more than likely to follow the law and comply with the rule, which should reduce an important part of the nuisance.

Although, the TPS faces many critics as it mostly fails to block a great number of unwelcomed calls and scams. In fact, many companies appear to ignore the rules and often skip the mandatory check on the TPS register before making cold calls.

Additionally, the TPS does not cover many types of nuisance calls that abundantly plague UK users, such as any kind of nuisance messages, automated calls (robocalls), market research calls, silent calls, overseas calls and fraudulent calls. As a result, consumers yet receive an important number of unwanted calls, despite the legal restrictions.

The TPS does not protect you against unsolicited text messages either.

For more details about cold calling and the most commons scams in the UK, please read our guide about it.

But… does TPS actually work?

tps doesnt work as expected

For all reasons mentioned above, the TPS undoubtedly fails to screen users from all types of nuisance calls. However, it yet appears to reduce an important number of live sales cold calls. Research have found that TPS successfully cut out a third of unwanted calls, mainly blocking UK based organisations.

Being the only such register enforced by the UK law, the TPS also provides its users the ways to report abusive numbers to the authorities. Unfortunately, the procedure is complex and users’ complaints rarely lead to repressive legal actions. Tracking down companies acting illegally appears to be a difficult process, as many of them operate overseas. The authorities have recently claimed that they are working on adopting new measures to improve the repression of the fraudsters, in order to fight more effectively against nuisance calls.

To sum up, the TPS is an ambitious service that did not quite fulfil the public’s expectations. The TPS users still get plenty of nuisance calls and apart of unplugging your landline and throwing your mobile away, there is not much to do to avoid them completely. However, the TPS service is free of charge and has proved a relative effectiveness especially regarding live cold calls, which can be enough reasons for you to register for it.

How do I register for the TPS?

If you wish to register with the TPS, here are your options:

By phone

Call the registration line on 0345 070 0707. The price of the call es the same as per calling any other landline in the U.K., sometimes calls to these type of phone numbers are included in call packages.

To register your mobile phone, send a text message to 85095 with a message following this format “TPS your@email.com”. Sending a text to this phone number has no charge and its the option we recommend, once your petition has been processed you will receive a text message from this shortcode confirming you are subscribed to the TPS.

Online

The registration process takes a few minutes online on the TPS official website.

By post

You can alternatively register by writing a request to the following address:

Telephone Preference Service
DMA House, 70 Margaret Street,
London, W1W 8SS.

Beware of the TPS related scams!!!!

Our community has raised our attention on increasing scams involving the TPS. Fraudsters usually operate following the same pattern. According to our numerous reports, fake TPS agents claim that your TPS registration is expiring and will soon be terminated. They will then ask for your banking details in order to renew the service. Remember that the TPS is a FREE service! Once you are registered, you do not have to renew it and no one from the TPS will ever call you to ask money or personal information.

If you ever receive this type of calls, end the communication immediately. Please report the fraud to the Unknownphone.com team by filling a report for the phone number who called you on our website so we can warn the rest of the community.

We also advise you to download Call Blocker, our call blocking app for mobile, which automatically blocks and identifies these type of calls!