Beware of crooks pretending to be officials from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Service, threatening court action for bogus tax debt.
A Cambridge grandmother with links to Ely was horrified after receiving six unsolicited phone calls from numbers in Sheffield this morning, claiming to be from HMRC.
The shaken woman told Spotted in Ely that despite being suspicious of hoax callers, the scam was so convincing and threatening that she was almost persuaded to part with thousands of pounds.
She initially received an automated phone call, saying it was an official message from HMRC.
A man with a heavy South Asian accent, calling himself Christopher Jones and pretending to be an HMRC case officer, then came on the line, saying that if the woman disconnected at any time, she would be taken to court.
She said: “He knew my post code and was very convincing. Unfortunately I gave him my National Insurance number.
“He said that there had been an investigation into my records from 2008 to 2014 and I owed them £2974. I could either pay it immediately or it would result in court proceedings, legal fees and bailiffs coming to my house. It was very threatening.
“At the time you’re feeling pressure and guilt and it’s really easy to be taken in.”
The man told the scam victim that she would have to buy bonds covering the alleged unpaid tax from a shop in the Grafton Centre and that someone would then collect them from her. He was very insistent that this would have to be done immediately.
“At that point I realised something was definitely wrong. While he was on the phone I checked the HMRC website and it said I didn’t owe them any money.”
The fraudster advised the grandmother to keep the phone line open while she travelled to buy the bonds.
Realising that she was being tricked, she decided to outwit him by pretending to go to the Grafton Centre but visiting a relative who works as a solicitor instead.
Once the relative confronted the fraudster, he hung up.
In total the grandmother, in her 70s, had received six calls from the scammer, calling from two Sheffield landlines.
Speaking later, she said: “The threats he used were very effective. I’m not a silly person but it just shows how their pressure works and I’m sure I was targeted because of my age. He was so aggressive.”
Investigations by Spotted in Ely confirm that this is a hoax and that the landlines used to make the calls are from a persistent offender.
The MoneySavingExpert website says the HMRC scam is a popular one, advising anyone on the receiving end to report the crime to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.