Scammers pretending to be from the HMRC threaten potential victims with lawsuits, with warrants for their arrest or demands for outstanding tax to be paid.
Which? has obtained two recordings of the automated scam phone calls. Watch the video so you know what they sound like so you don’t get caught out.
HMRC phone scam: warrant for arrest
In one of the scam telephone messages, an automated male voice warns there’s a warrant for your arrest because there’s a legal case to be filed in your name.
It says because you’ve now been notified, you then have to call the HMRC on a number provided.
The voice signs off with: ‘Don’t ignore.’
HMRC phone scam: officer Sarah Wilson
The other scam voicemail is an automated female voice purporting to be Officer Sarah Wilson from HM Revenue & Customs.
She urges you or your solicitor to call her back on a provided number. The message threatens that if you or your solicitor doesn’t call them back, ‘then get ready to face the legal consequences’.
This is another tactic to make you act quickly – this time to pressure you into responding out of fear of severe consequences.
Spot the signs of the HMRC automated voicemail scam
Both the scam calls are threatening and pressure you into acting quickly - this is a common sign of a scam as it’s designed to stop you from thinking through your actions.
Being contacted out of the blue
Often being contacted out of the blue is a sign something could be a scam - but sometimes legitimate companies will need to do this.
So it’s always a good idea to try verify the identity of the caller. You can do this by getting them to answer questions only the company would know - like your tax reference number.
If you feel uncomfortable or you’re sure it’s a scam, hang up.
Asked to share personal details
If you’re asked to share personal details over the phone and you couldn’t verify their identity, hang up.
You should then research the organisation’s number independently.
You can do this by looking up the HMRC’s call centre numbers on www.gov.uk or by using the number on a trusted piece of correspondence – such as a letter you’ve been sent.
Call them back on that number.
Read more about the seven common signs of a scam.
Does the HMRC call you?
The HMRC told us it will call people about outstanding tax bills, and sometimes use automated messages, however it would include your taxpayer reference number.
The HMRC said the voicemail scams generally target elderly and vulnerable people.
How to report the HMRC voicemail scam
If you get a voicemail or message which worries you or you think might be a scam, you should report it so no one else falls victim to it and it can be investigated.
You can forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to firstname.lastname@example.org and texts to 60599.
Or you can contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls or use their online fraud reporting tool.
We also have more information about how to report a scam.
How to avoid an HMRC tax scam
Tax scams can happen at any time but are most common around key deadlines, such as when your tax return is due.
As well as phone calls and voicemail, scammers also send emails, texts and even letters trying to trick people into handing over their money or personal details.
They usually take the form of ‘you’re owed a tax rebate’ or ‘you’re in trouble with the HMRC’.
We have more information about how to avoid a tax scam in our free guide.