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Alert: HMRC and iTunes gift card scam

18th May 2016

Action Fraud is warning people of a new trend that has hit the UK where fraudsters contact victims claiming to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and trick them into paying bogus debts and taxes using iTunes gift cards. 

Victims are being contacted in a variety of methods by fraudsters claiming to be from HMRC and are told they owe an outstanding debt. In the hundreds of cases reported to Action Fraud in the past month, the fraudsters all ask for payment in iTunes gift card voucher codes. 

Fraudsters are now moving onto iTunes gift cards to collect money from victims because they can be easily redeemed and easily sold on. The scammers don’t need the physical card to redeem the value and instead get victims to read out the serial code on the back over the phone. 

Fraudsters are contacting victims in three ways:

  • Voicemails: Fraudsters are leaving victims automated voicemails saying that they owe HMRC unpaid taxes. When victims call back on the number provided, they are told that there is a warrant out in their name and if they don’t pay, the police will arrest them.
     
  • Spoofed calls: Fraudsters are cold calling victims using a spoofed 0300 200 3300 number and convincing them that they owe unpaid tax to HMRC. 
     
  • Text messages: Fraudsters are sending text messages that require victims to urgently call back on the number provided. When victims call back, they are told that there is a case being built against them for an outstanding debt and they must pay immediately.  

One victim had reported purchasing over 15 iTunes gift card vouchers from Argos at £100 pounds each and handing them over to fraudsters on the phone after receiving an automated voice message. Another victim handed gift card voucher codes worth £15,000 after receiving a cold call. 

This new trend that has only surfaced in the UK over the past month has been used by scammers in the USA who have been posing as police, attorneys, debt collectors and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents. 

How to protect yourself: 

  • HMRC will never use texts to tell you about a tax rebate or penalty or ever ask for payment in this way.
  • Telephone numbers and text messages can easily be spoofed. You should never trust the number you see on your telephones display. 
  • If you receive a suspicious cold call, end it immediately.

To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.

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