HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has advised the public to be vigilant following an alarming number of scam calls claiming to be them.
The organisation has handled more than 1.1 million referrals due to suspicious activity in the last year alone, with more than 570,000 of these offering bogus tax rebates.
These calls can cause a lot of distress, often claiming the caller has been involved in tax fraud and threatening them with imprisonment if they do not reply.
What makes it worse is these criminals often target the elderly or vulnerable, trying to take their hard-earned savings.
In fact, Age UK reports that 43% of those over the age of 65 in the UK have been targeted by fraudsters.
Here, Andrew Diver, Head of Taxation at Beatons Group, gives his advice on how to spot and avoid a scam.
How to tell when it is a scam?
As the world became more technologically advanced, so did the fraudsters.
Many now mimic trusted organisations, such as HMRC, to get members of the public to hand over their cash.
It can sometimes be hard to work out whether a call is genuine, however there are a few things to look out for.
If you get a call from HMRC, the organisation will never ask you about a claim you are unaware of and would never threaten legal action against you.
If the call comes out of the blue, offers a refund, grant or rebate or asks for any personal information – then it could be a scam.
The advice is clear – if you cannot be sure, hang up the phone and end contact.
What to do if you think it’s a scam
First of all, never give your personal information to anyone you are not 100% sure is who they say they are.
The best thing to do is to hang up, look up a genuine telephone number for the organisation or company, and call that.
A bona fide organisation will not mind you being cautious, in fact will be happy you are double checking, and will never advise against it.
Do not give away any information, even to confirm whether something is true, and do not click any links.
Once you have ended contact, report the incident to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 1232040.