Fake HMRC websites are directing users to £36 per call premium lines

Fraudsters have been creating replica versions of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) website and directing the public to call premium rate numbers advertised on them.These numbers acted as call forwarders which would then connect callers to HMRC - but at a significant cost.With a call costing as much as £3.60 a minute, capped at £36 per call, HMRC acted to have the websites taken down, successfully challenging the ownership of the sites.Read more: The five most common online frauds '“ and how to protect yourself against themHMRC's own 0300 numbers are mostly free or charged at the national landline rate.Analysis has shown that had HMRC not taken this action the public would have lost over £2.4 million.

Premium rates

HMRC said that specific tactics and costs on each website varied, but the maximum cost of a call was £3.60 a minute, capped at £36 per call. HMRC's own 0300 numbers are mostly free or charged at the national landline rate.

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This announcement from HMRC comes at the start of Scams Awareness Month organised by Citizens Advice which is running throughout June.

Scammers even send fraudulent emails pretending to be HMRC (Photo: Shutterstock)

Action Fraud - the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime - say that HMRC scams are also the most reported type of phishing attempt reported to them.

Other fraudulent schemes include spoofed calls, voicemails and text messages aimed at duping  victims of their money.

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Treasury Minister, Mel Stride MP the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said: 'We know that HMRC is the most spoofed government brand as criminals try to take advantage of the fact that everyone has some involvement with the tax authority. In this particular case, scammers try to dupe the public into paying large sums for services that are available for free or low cost.'

'This is a brazen con, charging premium rates whilst simply redirecting calls to the real HMRC numbers that are available at low or no cost. It is a testament to the hard work of HMRC that they have prevented criminals extracting £2.4m from the public.'

'The public should go direct to gov.uk to obtain genuine HMRC contact numbers. These will not be premium rate numbers. People should be alert for sponsored adverts, websites charging for government services which would be expected to be free and those with disclaimers denying association with HMRC or government.'