HMRC scam website crackdown ‘saves public £2.4m’
Department successfully challenges ownership of more than 100 spoof domains
HM Revenue and Customs claims that its recent takedown of more than 100 scam websites has saved the UK public more than £2m.
The tax agency last year undertook a programme of challenging the ownership of websites that spoofed its own official online home. The sites in question typically directed users wishing to contact HMRC towards premium-rate call-forwarding phone lines. Some also charged users to forward information digitally.
The phone lines that connected users to the department charged as much as £3.60 a minute, and the average call cost for users was £15, HMRC said.
The department said its own array of 0300 contact numbers are usually free of charge or, in some cases, charged at the national landline rate. It added that digital information can also be submitted for free via its own website.
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Since last year, the department has successfully taken ownership of 105 domains which were used to host spoof sites. HMRC estimates that these actions have cumulatively saved UK citizens £2.4m.
Financial secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride 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.”
He added: “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.”
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