Derbyshire Constabulary is warning about a new scam in which vulnerable and elderly people are getting tricked by fraudsters who tell them to buy iTunes gift cards to pay their tax bills.
The cruel offenders fooled one victim into handing over £15,000 worth of gift cards.
Most victims are over 65 and lose £1,150 each on average.
The force has issued the advice to try and raise awareness and has encouraged people to tell their loves ones.
Detective Inspector Debbie King, who leads Derbyshire police’s economic crime unit, said: “Criminals are always changing the methods they use and this is the latest ruse to defraud people of their money.
“This type of crime is often directed at vulnerable members of society who are more likely to be taken in by this type of fraud.
“iTunes gift cards are easily redeemed and easily sold on. 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.
“The same scam has been used in the USA where criminals posed as attorneys, debt collectors and even police officers.
“We have been backing the Take Five campaign and I would urge anyone to take five minutes to make sure they pass the below advice onto friends, family and colleagues.”
Security schemes such as the Banking Protocol are designed to stop people from withdrawing large amounts of money unchallenged, however, this scam bypasses those procedures and can leave people thousands of pounds out of pocket.
There are three main ways in which fraudsters are contacting victims. These are through:
- 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: Phone numbers are able to be hijacked with criminals able to ring from what looks to be the official HMRC number - 0300 200 3300 – and convincing them that they owe unpaid tax.
- 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.
While people have been taken in by this scam are some simple ways to make sure you, or others you may know, don’t become a victim. These are:
- 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.
- Do not provide the numbers on the back of the card to someone you do not know.
- Immediately report potential scams to www.actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040.