HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has averted over a million visits to a number of unauthorised websites that promote misleading and costly helpline numbers.
When someone searches online for HMRC, they can unwittingly be directed to other websites that promote premium rate, non-HMRC numbers as a means of reaching the UK tax office.
These are, in fact, call-forwarding services that connect callers to HMRC, but at a hefty price. HMRC's official 0300 numbers are free or charged at the national landline rate. In other cases, these scam websites charge for forwarding information to HMRC which can be provided free of charge through GOV.UK.
HMRC describes these activities as "an attempt to mislead customers and gain business at their expense, without making clear the service is not affiliated with HMRC".
Since January, HMRC's cyber security team has taken control of over 75 dubious sites by challenging their ownership. Any members of the public trying to access these sites will now be redirected to HMRC's GOV.UK pages, which provide genuine contact numbers as well as advice on how to spot these misleading sites.
Through this work, HMRC has redirected customers to GOV.UK, averting a potential one million visits to malicious or misleading websites.
Angela MacDonald, HMRC's director for customer services, said: "HMRC takes the abuse of its brand very seriously. 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."
As well as taking over ownership of these sites, HMRC is also combating other types of scams that customers are being targeted by. Information on how to spot and report scams, including phishing emails and texts as well as misleading websites, is published on the HMRC website.
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