Police in Derbyshire are warning residents that scammers are operating in the area again, this time posing as HMRC officials. The police have taken the step to warn residents after numerous reports were made and one victim reported having lost nearly £2,000.

The fraudsters have been telling victims they could be arrested or prosecuted at court, because of unpaid taxes they didn’t know they owed. They then go on to tell their victims that they can avoid being prosecuted if they pay the balance via a bank transfer or by handing over gift cards.

Some of the victims have reported that if they refused to pay the fraudsters, they would be threatened with immediate arrest or bailiffs visiting their homes, if the fraudster thinks the victim is from abroad, they have threatened them with deportation.

Tammy Barnes, Fraud Protection Officer: “Ahead of the self-assessment tax deadline on January 30 we have seen an increasing number of reports about this scam. HMRC officials will never contact you in this manner and we will certainly never ask for a direct bank payment or by iTunes vouchers. Never feel pressured into making a decision and if you receive a call of this nature then hang up and report it immediately using the 101 number. I would also urge people to speak to anyone who they know may be fulling out a self-assessment return in the coming weeks or may be particularly vulnerable due to their age of circumstances.”

Anyone who is in doubt is asked to call HMRC back from a different phone and contact Derbyshire Police by calling 101. Anyone who receives a call of this nature is urged to report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

The most common types of scams being used to target vulnerable people:

It is estimated that around £10 billion is lost each year in the UK to fraud and elderly people, especially those with dementia are at particular risk. Because older people are more likely to live on their own, and are often lonely, they become targets for fraudsters. And for some people, their only form of social contact is with commercial organisations, legitimate or fraudulent. They might receive telemarketing calls, emails or letters, or open the door to a scammer purporting to be a bona fide salesman or tradesman.  Sometimes strong relationships can develop between scammers and their elderly victims, if a high level of contact is maintained.

Romantic scams: A romance scam is a confidence trick involving feigning romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection then using that goodwill to commit fraud. Fraudsters may try to contact you by making fake profiles, getting in touch and building what feels like a loving relationship. Once a fraudster using a fake dating profile is confident that they’ve won your trust, they will tell you about a problem they’re experiencing and ask you to help out by sending money. They may have arranged to visit you, but need money to pay for the flight or visa. They may tell you everything has been booked but their ticket has been stolen, and you need to send money quickly to get them on the next flight. Alternatively they may prey on your sympathies, telling you a family member or someone else they are responsible for is ill and they need money for medical treatment. Once you send them money, the fraudsters will keep coming back and invent new reasons to send them more.

Prize scams: Unexpected prize and lottery scams work by asking you to pay some sort of fee in order to claim your prize or winnings from a competition or lottery you never entered. To claim your prize, you will be asked to pay a fee. Scammers will often say these fees are for insurance costs, government taxes, bank fees or courier charges. The scammers make money by continually collecting these fees from you and stalling the payment of your winnings.

Direct financial scam: There are many direct financial scams and fraudsters are always coming up with new ways to scam money from vulnerable people. Some scams are so slick, even the most vigilant can be duped. It is important to remember that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Protect yourself from scams:

  • Never respond to any emails, text messages, letter or social media that look suspicious, or that have bad spelling or grammar.
  • A genuine bank will never contact you out of the blue asking for your PIN, full password or to move money to another account. If you receive a message like this, ignore it.
  • If someone you have never met before asks you for money, do not give them any and report it.
  • Always question uninvited contact. This is relevant whether it is on the doorstep, over the phone, by post or online. Always contact the company directly  yourself.
  • Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected text or email. Make sure you use a strong password, and change them regularly.
  • Trust your instincts, if you feel at all wary or suspicious, you’re probably right.
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