St Helens residents have been urged to be on their guard after a new spate of scams in which folk are threatened with arrest for unpaid taxes and debt.
Residents say they have been contacted by someone claiming to be from the Inland Revenue (now HMRC). The fraudsters claim there has been an issue with their taxes, and that a warrant will be issued for their arrest if they do not immediately pay up.
The victims, primarily the elderly and vulnerable, are contacted most frequently by phone but increasingly by texts and voicemails too. In most cases they ask for payment in iTunes gift card voucher codes.
Scammers like these cards to collect money from victims because they can be easily redeemed and 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.
Con artists most commonly cold call victims using a spoof number and convince them that they owe unpaid tax to HMRC.
Victims have also received automated voicemails saying that they owe HMRC unpaid taxes. When they call back on a 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.
Fraudsters may also use text messages that ask 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.
Action Fraud says: “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.”