Farmers and rural business owners should beware potential phone scams, following a spate of incidents in which tricksters pretend to be calling from HMRC.
According to rural accountant Old Mill, farmers are more likely to be targeted given the availability of a landline number, with older people particularly at risk.
“We have received a few reports from farmers who have been called by someone purporting to be from HMRC, and either saying that they are owed a tax refund or that they are being investigated for tax fraud,” explains Richard Haines, director of rural services at Old Mill. “Some are even being threatened with legal action unless they pay the supposed fine or tax arrears – and because the scammers appear to be calling from HMRC they can be very convincing.”
As HMRC has been cracking down on email and text phishing, criminals have been turning back to cold calls to steal money from taxpayers. In a warning issued to households, HMRC said it had received more than 60,000 reports of phone scams in the six months to January 2019 – a 360% increase on the previous six months. And over the past year the organisation – in conjunction with phone networks and Ofcom – has closed nearly 450 lines being used by fraudsters.
“If you receive a call from anyone purporting to be from HMRC, you should immediately be on your guard,” advises Mr Haines. “HMRC and other genuine organisations like banks will never contact you out of the blue asking for your bank details. If you are at all suspicious, do not give out any personal information, hang up, and call the organisation back on its public phone number from its website. You can then report suspicious calls and get them blocked.”
Anyone who has suffered financial loss to scammers should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.