Warning over HMRC scam as victim loses thousands of pounds

Published 9th November 2018

Sandwell Council’s Trading Standards team is warning residents about fake HMRC telephone scammers - after one man lost £4,000.

The man from the Great Barr area paid the sum after being threatened with court action over an old tax debt that didn’t exist. Police are now investigating.

Trading standards bosses fear the number could be higher as the scammers threaten their victims to keep quiet.

The scam involves a caller telling someone they owe money to the tax office going back some years.

They frighten the victim into believing they are about to be taken to court if they don’t pay.

They then coerce the victim into sending money by Western Union, bank transfer or by purchasing huge sums of gift cards and supplying the code numbers.

Retailers are also being warned to be aware of the scam and to question anyone purchasing large amounts of gift cards.

Sandwell Council’s Trading Standards manager Bob Charnley said: “We know that at least four people in different parts of Sandwell have been contacted by these scammers so there may be many more out there.

“The gentleman who paid out a large amount of money didn’t tell anyone until a friend asked him what was going on – luckily it stopped him from paying more to the scammers after they demanded more cash.

“It’s important that people know that HMRC would never contact someone about a debt like this, or get them to pay a reduced amount over the phone.

“If you get a phonecall like this, do not offer any money – just put the phone down.

“And if you need advice about scams or you’re worried that you may have fallen for a scam, call the Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 04 06.”

Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for public health and protection and local SCAMbassador Councillor Elaine Costigan said “This is a terrible scam to hear about.

“It’s particularly worrying to think that someone who is vulnerable may worry they are in trouble and may pay the scammers without realising this is not genuine.

“Remember the scam awareness motto – ‘Don’t be rushed, Don’t be hushed.’

“If you’re not sure if someone is genuine, don’t part with any money. Get some advice first and talk to someone about what’s going on.”