It will be much easier to spot fake callers claiming to be from HM Revenue and Customs from now on, according to the tax authority.

Fraudsters have apparently been using mimicked legitimate HMRC helpline numbers (often beginning with 0300) to dupe taxpayers and steal money.

Victims would receive the calls and on checking the phone numbers online, would find they appeared to belong to HMRC.

From now on, it will be much easier to recognise a dodgy phone call, HMRC promised as it said new controls will prevent spoofing of its most used inbound helpline numbers.

However, it warned criminals may still try and use less credible numbers to deploy their scams.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman MP, said: “This is a huge step forward in the fight against phone fraud.

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“HMRC’s new controls will help to protect thousands of hardworking taxpayers and their families from these heartless criminals.

“Vigilance will always be important but this is a significant blow to the phone cheats.”

Last year, the government body said it received more than 100,000 phone scam reports. Since the controls were introduced in April this year, no scammers have been able to mimic the genuine HMRC numbers and it has received 25 per cent fewer scam reports against the previous month.

Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: “Phone calls are one of the top ways for fraudsters to make contact with their victims. Between April 2018 and March 2019, one in four phishing reports made to Action Fraud were about fraudulent phone calls.

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“It is encouraging to see that these newly developed controls by HMRC have already achieved a reduction in the number of calls spoofing genuine HMRC numbers. If you believe you have fallen victim to a fraudster, please report it to Action Fraud”

The new defensive controls were created in partnership with telecommunications groups and Ofcom. During the last 10 months, it has requested the removal of more than 1,050 numbers being used by scammers.

Criminals often target the elderly and vulnerable using HMRC’s brand as it adds credibility to the fraudster’s call. This will now be significantly harder to do.

HMRC will only call you asking for payment on a debt you are already aware of. You may have received a letter about it or you may have told them you owe some tax. Changes this month also mean you will never be asked to read aloud your card details to an operator.

If you are in doubt, check the number and end the call. You can contact HMRC using one of the helpline numbers or online services available from GOV.UK

How can you avoid being a victim of a scam?

  • Be aware that genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details.
  • Don’t give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting.
  • Forward details of suspicious calls claiming to be from HMRC to and texts to 60599, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online fraud reporting tool if you suffer financial loss.
  • Check GOV.UK for information on how to avoid and report scams and recognise genuine HMRC contact.
  • Listen to an example of what a phone scam sounds like
  • If you think you have received an HMRC related phishing/bogus email or text message, you can check it against the examples shown in this guide.