Police are warning people to be vigilant after reports of fraudsters pretending to be from HMRC.
Victims are being contacted in a variety of methods – which can include voicemails and text messages – and being told they owe an outstanding debt.
They are then informed the payment can be made quickly and easily by using an iTunes gift card voucher code, which can be purchased online or in store.
The fraudsters claim that failure to clear the ‘debt’ will lead to a fine or even an arrest.
Once the conmen have the serial code they are then free to use it, at the victim’s expense.
One such case in our area has led to the victim being out of pocket by £2,500 with another victim in another part of the country losing £15,000.
Stores are being contacted to put them on their guard if they have any suspicions about large purchases of iTunes vouchers, and a few days ago quick thinking by staff at the Durham branch of WH Smith prevented a woman in her eighties buying £250 worth of iTunes gift cards after she received an automated voicemail.
“Fraudsters are now moving onto iTunes gift cards to collect money from victims because they can be easily redeemed and quick purchases can be made with them,” said Det Con Tony Murray, from the force’s economic crime unit.
“The 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.
“They are putting the victims under real pressure by stating if the debt is not repaid swiftly then the police will be sent to arrest them. These types of criminals are expert in what they do and very skilled at sounding plausible.”
Watch out for cold calls using the number 0300 200 3300 – this is being used by the ‘HMRC’ conmen.