HMRC takes control of scam websites promoting misleading and expensive phone services
HMRC says it has stopped one million visits to deceptive websites that redirect users to expensive helplines, claiming to be official communications channels.
Whereas HMRC’s official numbers are either free or charge the standard rate, these malicious numbers use a call forwarding service that redirects people to the genuine helpline, causing them to rack up significant phone bills.
Many users find these sites by searching for HMRC in search engines. By challenging the ownership, HMRC have actually been able to seize control of 75 sites and redirect them to the official one. In addition, there have been more than 20,000 takedown requests in the past year.
“HMRC takes the abuse of its brand very seriously,” said Angela MacDonald, HMRC Director for Customer Services. “Attempts to dupe customers in this way won’t be tolerated and we will always act to protect the public from malicious or misleading websites.”
Given the fact that many people contact HMRC with financial queries, it has been a common agency to impersonate by cybercriminals. Indeed, a number of spam campaigns have seen emails claiming to be from HMRC, demanding users hand over sensitive data to settle outstanding bills or to claim a refund.
HMRC said it also publishes information on Gov.UK to help the public identify such schemes.
Recently, a security researcher claimed to have discovered two serious flaws on the HMRC website.