HMRC stops scam text messages

Written by Mark Evans

HM Revenue and Customs has stopped thousands of scam text messages, with 90 per cent of the most convincing texts now halted before they reach taxpayers’ phones.

The milestone comes during Take Five to Stop Fraud Week, with HMRC raising awareness of the tell-tale signs of fraud ahead of the Self Assessment deadline.

Fraudsters have been sending text messages to unsuspecting members of the public making false claims, such as suggesting they are due a tax rebate. Messages usually include links to websites which then harvest personal information or spread malware. This can in turn lead to identity fraud and the theft of people’s personal savings.

HMRC have stated that it will never contact customers who are due a tax refund by text message or by email.

HMRC began a pilot in April 2017 to combat these messages using new technology that identifies fraud texts with ‘tags’ that suggest it’s from HMRC and stops them from being delivered. Since the pilot began, there has been a 90 per cent reduction in customer reports around the spoofing of these specific HMRC-related tags on SMS and a five-fold reduction in malicious SMS reports.

The initiative has helped reduce reports of these scams from over 5,000 in March 2017, before the new programme was introduced, to less than 1,000 in December 2017.

HMRC is working with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to further this work and extend the benefits beyond HMRC customers.