Be aware of the HMRC and iTunes gift card scam


Financial Crime

There are a number of organisations that fraudsters like to impersonate. Microsoft, the Financial Ombudsman Service and HM Revenue and Customers (HMRC) are just some of the big names fraudsters can claim to be.

It can be intimidating when you get a phone call or text message from someone claiming to be from these organisations – and fraudsters know this. To make sure you don’t fall for their latest scam – which uses both HMRC and iTunes – we’re going to take you through what to look out for.

The details

Action Fraud has seen a new trend in the past month of fraudsters contacting victims and pretending to be from HMRC. They tell victims that they owe income tax.

In all of the cases reported to Action Fraud, the fraudsters ask for payment in iTunes gift voucher codes. As you can easily spend or sell iTunes gift cards, this allows fraudsters to collect money from their victims without fuss.

To avoid needing the physical gift card to redeem the vouchers, scammers are getting their victims to read out the serial code on the back of the gift card to them.

In the cases seen so far, fraudsters are contacting victims in a number of ways.

Spoofed calls: fraudsters are cold calling victims using a spoofed 0300 200 3300 number. Spoofed numbers display a different number to the one that’s calling you.

Voicemails: fraudsters are leaving automated voicemails on victims’ phones.

Text messages: fraudsters are sending text messages telling victims to call them back urgently.

Victims tend to be told a similar story when they speak to scammers – that there is a warrant out in their name and the police could arrest them if they don’t pay up.

Of the cases reported to Action Fraud, one victim admitted purchasing over 15 £100 iTunes gift cards from Argos after receiving an automated voicemail. Another handed over the serial codes of gift vouchers worth £15,000 after receiving a cold call.

Protect yourself

You may think that you’d never fall for a scam like this. But you never know what you might do when you hear the word ‘prison’ – even if it turns out to be an empty threat. To avoid falling for a scam like this, remember the following tips.

• HMRC will never use texts to tell you about a tax rebate or outstanding penalty. They won’t ever text you for personal or payment information either.

• You cannot pay outstanding tax to the HMRC with iTunes vouchers. Hang up if you receive a call, voicemail or text claiming this.

• It’s easy to spoof a telephone number or text message. Never trust an unfamiliar number no matter how your phone is displaying it.

• Remember, if something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t – end the conversation immediately.

If you think you’ve already fallen for a scam like this, report it to Action Fraud using their online reporting tool.

This isn’t the first time fraudsters have claimed to be HMRC to scam victims. You can read all about the HMRC text scam in our blog.

< Back to articles