Scam warnings are being spread after woman in her 60s was conned out of a “substantial amount” of money in the form of iTunes vouchers.
In what police say is the first incident of its kind seen in Warwickshire, the woman from Stratford was conned into handing over high value vouchers after being contacted by a man claiming to be from the Inland Revenue.
She was called on Tuesday and told she owed a substantial amount of money after failing to complete tax returns, and that failure to pay in the next 24 hours would result in the police attending her home and car being seized.
The victim was then told the balance must be paid in iPhone gift cards and instructed her to go to a number of stores based in Stratford and surrounding areas to purchase them.
She bought cards from six different shops, spending a “substantial amount of money” before being asked to read out the serial numbers to the man on the phone.
Warwickshire Police has now launched an investigation and say the internet vouchers are being used to collect money from victims, because they can be easily redeemed and are hard to trace.
Scammers also do not need the cards, and can ask victims to simply read out the serial numbers to them.
Detective Sergeant Jordan Baker said: “As you would expect, the victim is extremely distressed following this incident. We’re doing all we can to support her and identify those responsible.
“This is the first time we have seen this tactic used by offenders and we’re keen to make the public and shop workers aware to in order prevent others falling victim.
“If you are ever suspicious that someone is trying to defraud then please call the police immediately. Anyone who is calling you legitimately will have no issue with you checking on them.
“If you work in a shop and are concerned that someone making a purchase such as this is being blackmailed then refuse the transaction and please call the police straight away. It might be nothing or you might be able to stop another person falling victim; we will be able to advise.”
Advice from Action Fraud:
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.
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 telephone’s display.
If you receive a suspicious cold call, end it immediately.
How to report a fraud:
If the crime is in progress call 999 immediately. Make the call from another phone because fraudsters will sometimes leave the line open and pretend to be the police.
If it is after the event call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool, found via www.actionfraud.police.uk