More than £38,000 was lost in the last few weeks from victims of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) scams in Hertfordshire.

Fourteen elderly and vulnerable victims were contacted by the fraudsters claiming to be the HMRC over the last few weeks. The victims were told there were outstanding debts or unpaid taxes in their names and were then asked to make bank transfers as payment.

The victims were targeted in Watford, Hatfield and Hertford, with a total loss more than £38,000 reported so far.

The fraudsters called victims using a spoofed number, sometimes leaving voicemail messages claiming they owe unpaid tax to HMRC.

The victims are asked to call back on the number provided, through which they are told that there is a warrant out in their name and if they don’t pay, the police will arrest them.

Sometimes the victims are also contacted via text messages asking them to urgently call the number provided.

Detective Inspector Rob Burns, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s serious fraud and cyber unit, said: “Fraudsters are continuing to target elderly and vulnerable people and sometimes even use the threat of arrest to frighten them into making bank transfers or buying gift cards or vouchers.

“It’s important to remember that government official and police officers will NEVER contact you in these ways or ask you to buy gift cards or vouchers, withdraw money, purchase goods or hand over private banking details.

“Please help us to raise awareness by talking about this with your friends and family, especially if they are vulnerable or elderly.”

The constabulary shared out some advice on how to protect yourself:

• HMRC will never use texts to tell you about a tax rebate or penalty or ever ask for payment in this way.

• Telephone numbers and text messages can easily be spoofed. You should never trust the number you see on your telephone display.

• If you receive a suspicious cold call, end it immediately.

The constabulary also explained on how to recognise fraud:

• Be sceptical of callers, even those who claim to be officials.

• Don’t be afraid to put the phone down with a brief ‘No, thank you’.

• NEVER give personal information, such as your date of birth or bank details, to unexpected callers.

• Remember that the police or your bank would NEVER unexpectedly call you and ask you to withdraw cash or move your money to another account, as a result of fraud or any other reason.

• If callers suggest you call your local police or bank to check who they are, use another phone or ensure the line has been fully disconnected by phoning a friend or relative first, or by waiting at least five minutes, otherwise you may think you’ve phoned a number, but you’re simply talking to the fraudsters again. This is a common fraudsters’ tactic.

• If a caller asks you to type your bank PIN number into your telephone handset - do not do this, as fraudsters can use technology to identify the numbers.

• You can opt out of many cold calls by registering for free with the Telephone Preference Service on 0845 070 0707.

If you believe that you are a victim of this scam, contact Hertfordshire Constabulary’s non- emergency number 101, using a different phone to that used to communicate with the fraudsters. If a fraud is in progress or someone’s life is in danger, call 999 immediately.

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