The HMRC scammers are out in force at the moment. Don’t assume you won’t get caught out.
During a busy breakfast with the children recently, I got a phone call. The caller said that I had not paid last year’s taxes and the police would turn up at my door unless I paid the outstanding amount.
With hindsight, this seems like an incredible situation to be in, and quite an unrealistic one. But given the amount of detail the scammer gave on the phone, it gave them enough credibility that to my surprise (and later concern), I was almost willing to pay.
Firstly, he was incredibly abrupt on the phone and angry at my lack of payment. It made me feel like I was the fraudster.
Secondly, he gave a legitimate reference and case reference and warrant card ID that I could check online. This would probably turn out to be a completely unrelated reference to the case, but this real reference added credibility to his claim.
Next, he rattled off section violation 150, an amount small enough to pay immediately but large enough to think I had to take action (£1,597) and three options to choose from immediately.
With the kids shouting around me and on the call for 10 minutes, I could feel the tension and the urgency building. I needed to end this, get the children to school and get on with my day.
Option one was I put down the phone and a police officer would turn up at my house within 45 minutes and escort me to the nearest prison for 14 days.
Option two, I can take it to court. I will have a police officer turn up at my house within the next three days to judge whether they should take me immediately to prison for 14 days or not.
Option three, we accept that this was an error and as a goodwill gesture allow you to pay immediately; all charges would be dropped.
As the call went on and the urgency built, I almost put all logic aside and paid the amount. Fortunately, I’ve worked with HMRC for decades, so I quickly checked myself. I knew this was not how they operate.
So I hung up the phone and waited for the police to arrive, which of course they did not. But it just goes to show that even people with experience of HMRC and fraud can feel the pressure to make an urgent payment. And I’m not alone.
Searching online for ‘150 section HMRC scam’, I came across the following Financial Times article and the millions of people who have been through the same thing.
So please share this information with your network with your clients. They need to be aware that HMRC does not operate in this way. It is a heavily bureaucratic government office – the chances are your doorstep will be filled with paper and court summons long before you ever had any legal intervention.