WESTMINSTER DIARY from this week’s Solihull Observer
Every year, thousands of people across the UK fall victim to scammers – costing our economy between £5 billion and £10 billion, but no one can put a price on the impact this type of crime has on the individual.
A growing number of residents have recently contacted me with their concerns about ‘cold calling’ or ‘phishing’ scams, whereby scammers try to obtain sensitive data such as passwords and credit card numbers by disguising themselves as a trustworthy source such as your bank or even HMRC.
To help people spot the signs of a disingenuous caller, HMRC have released some guidance to explain how they would contact you should they need to.
Presently, HMRC and conducting feedback surveys to consult on how to improve their services. In the majority of circumstances HMRC will write to you at your home or business address or contact you by telephone to ask you to complete this survey. You may also be contacted by email to complete an online survey. Genuine surveys are being conducted in partnership with Ipsos MORI or Kantar Public and will never ask for your personal or financial information.
Separately, Action Fraud are offering advice to people who are contacted by scammers posing as debtors to seek payment for historic unpaid or ‘phantom’ debts.
Fraudsters are requesting payment by bank transfer and if refused they threaten to visit the people’s homes or place work in order to recover the debt that is owed. From the reports we have received a range of different businesses and individuals are being targeted:
· Make vigorous checks if you ever get a cold call associated with a bailiff.
· If you work for a business and receive a call or visit from bailiffs or debt collectors, be sure to speak with your manager or business owner first. Never pay the debts yourself.
· Request details of the debt in writing to confirm its legitimacy. · Do not feel rushed or intimidated to make a decision based on a phone call. Take five and listen to your instincts.
If you suspect you have been contacted by a cold caller or have fallen victim to a scam, you can report it to the police though ‘Action Fraud’ on 0300 123 2040 or visit them online: www.actionfraud.police.uk/.
*Action Fraud is not an emergency service, if you are in danger always dial 999.
Dame Caroline Spelman MP