HMRC is warning members of the public of a worrying iTunes gift card scam. The fraudsters are cold calling victims purporting to work for HMRC and warning them that they owe HMRC large amounts of tax which they can only pay off using digital vouchers and gift cards, including those used for Apple’s iTunes Store.
Victims are told to go to a local shop, buy these vouchers, and then read out the redemption code to the scammer who remains on the line the whole time. These scammers are ruthless and prey on elderly and vulnerable members of society.
Whilst this sounds far-fetched, there have been over 1,500 reports of this scam made to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre between January 2016 and August 2017 and the number of reported incidents has increased over recent months. Action Fraud has reported that the vast majority of the victims are aged over 65 and suffered an average financial loss of £1,150 each.
The fraudsters, who collect money using digital vouchers such as iTunes gift cards, make the fraud almost impossible to trace as the digital vouchers can be easily redeemed or the voucher codes simply sold on for cash. The scammers don’t need the physical gift card to redeem the value, they simply coerce victims to read out the serial code on the back of the card over the phone.
To be clear, HMRC never asks for payment by way of digital vouchers such as those mentioned in this article and none of these electronic vouchers are valid ways of making a payment of an outstanding debt to HMRC. Apple has also published a support page on their website warning users of a number of iTunes gift card scams and reminding people not to provide the numbers on the back of any redemption card to someone you do not know. Any potential frauds should be reported to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.