An eagle-eyed off duty officer stepped in to stop his elderly neighbour becoming the victim of a fraud after she bought hundreds of pounds worth of gift cards.
The woman, in her 80’s, bought the cards after receiving a call from someone claiming to be from HMRC. The caller told her that there was a warrant out for her arrest due to unpaid tax dating back to the 1950’s.
In order to “settle the debt” she would need to buy £500 worth of gift cards, which can be redeemed by anyone if they have the code on the card.
Believing the call to be legitimate, the woman rushed to her local supermarket where she made the purchase.
It was only when she spotted her neighbour returning home from work that she realised she had to tell someone about the call.
Fortunately for the woman, her neighbour happens to be PC Andy Hood, an officer with West Yorkshire Police.
Andy is part of the Proceeds of Crime Team – a specialised team set up to pursue and seize the assets of anyone involved in crime.
“After speaking to my neighbour, I knew that she had fallen victim to fraudsters.” Andy said.
“The HMRC will never contact anyone out of the blue to request tax debts are paid in gift cards.”
And when the fraudsters rang back, Andy was waiting.
“I gave them a bit of a rude awakening.
"Unsurprisingly they disconnected the call pretty sharpish when I explained that I was a police officer”.
Andy promptly reported the incident to Action Fraud and contacted his neighbour’s phone provider to get her landline number changed. He also helped her install a spam call blocker to stop nuisance calls.
After tweeting about the incident to warn others, the supermarket spotted Andy’s tweet and agreed to refund the woman as a goodwill gesture.
“I’m really pleased to have helped and it’s nice to know I made a difference. It’s just fortunate that I was in the right place at the right time.
“There are many people who don’t have friends or family to step in, which is why it is essential that we raise awareness about the different ways fraudsters trick people into providing financial or personal information."
Fraudsters are contacting victims in three ways:
Voicemails: Fraudsters are leaving victims automated voicemails saying that they owe HMRC unpaid taxes. When victims call back on the number provided, they are told that there is a warrant out in their name and if they don’t pay, the police will arrest them.
Spoofed calls: Fraudsters are cold calling victims using a spoofed 0300 200 3300 number and convincing them that they owe unpaid tax to HMRC.
Text messages: Fraudsters are sending text messages that require victims to urgently call back on the number provided. When victims call back, they are told that there is a case being built against them for an outstanding debt and they must pay immediately.
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 telephones display.
If you receive a suspicious cold call, end it immediately.