HMRC & Amazon Scams – IPS Investigates

In the IPS Manifesto for 2021 we promised “to go much further in driving significant change to help consumers” and that soon we will chase “all your personal data complaints FOR YOU”… We’ve been putting some of this into action as an illustration of what is to follow.

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Regular readers will have seen that scams running in the name of HMRC and Amazon Prime have regularly topped the charts of “most annoying intrusion” into the lives of our members. At the heart of these scams are two organisations who regularly feature in our lives and carry the name recognition that means they frequently overcome the scammers biggest fear – of being ignored or deleted. Any company or institution who is chosen as “being famous enough”,  joins an illustrious list that nobody wants to be on.

These scams have nothing to do with HMRC or Amazon Prime but IPS believe they could both be even more helpful in educating their customers, as we all work together to try and close these scams down – or better still to catch the culprits.

The scams are straightforward enough and typically involve fraudsters using phishing tactics in a call, text message or email to encourage us all to respond and divulge our personal details.

HMRC Scams

There is a good cop, bad cop element at play here. Fraudsters pretending to be HMRC will either “send you a rebate” or “issue you with a fine”.  Whichever one it is you must “act quickly” and confirm your details by visiting a dodgy fake website.

Here is one typical example of a scam text message

It’s worth restating here that HMRC will never ask for personal or financial information when they send text messages.

Amazon Prime Scams

One common story we hear a lot relates to an automated voice message reporting a scam around an incorrect payment for Amazon Prime. When the householder responds to find out more, they are connected to a fake agent to “take important details about your membership”. The scammers then either direct the victim to download software to protect themselves (it’s actually a way for the scammer to get inside your computer and steal data) or to confirm some personal details to stop the scam (which are soon converted into a login and a theft from the account). Action Fraud reported over £400,000 was stolen this way from September 2020 in the UK. One lady in Scotland lost £80,000 this way and our sympathy goes out to her.

Other text messages about Amazon Prime deliveries are similar to the HMRC text and send you to a fake website where victims have their personal data captured ahead of a criminal fraud happening against them.  You can read a more detailed article on Amazon and Amazon Prime scams here.

What have IPS done? What can be done?

We know there is a lot of well-intentioned advice to:

  • call the company
  • call your bank
  • report to Action Fraud
  • report to CrimeStoppers

But serial victims know all too well that these scams as so common that they don’t get any genuine personalised feedback and end up sharing their annoyance with fellow IPS members in our Facebook group.  There is currently just too much work required by the average citizen to do all this reporting, which we also confront in our manifesto.

 

HMRC

We sent our concerns to HMRC and reported “many IPS Members have complained to us”.  (There have been over 100 to date).  The reply we received felt like an automated message and stated “Our specialist team will investigate and take the necessary action. Whilst we cannot inform you of the outcome of these investigations, I can confirm that we do act on each submission we receive”.  To see the full reply, click here.

HMRC are no doubt heartily sick of all this and have put together a webpage to formalise the fact that you need to use digital tools to alert them.  This must be to prevent taxpayers money funding a call centre where the conversations are all the same: “Sorry to hear that but we can’t do anything about it”.

IPS View – Everyone in the UK needs to know about this scam. Everyone needs to know how HMRC actually contact people for real – and point out repeatedly that HMRC will never ask for personal or financial information when we send text messages”.

 

We would be delighted to work with HMRC putting forward our ideas to reduce the spread of this scam.  Some public education would help and could include:

  • An HMRC video explaining how they really contact people and, crucially, what they don’t do when contacting people. It should tackle the scams head on and clarify for everyone when it really is a scam.
  • A TV and newspaper campaign would help.
  • A social media campaign to promote the video would be useful.
  • In India, a Covid safety message (to remind citizens of the rules) plays instead of hold music when you place a call. We should make use of these type of tactics in the UK.

 

AMAZON & AMAZON PRIME

Amazon is a company which has grown and grown during the pandemic.  Its latest financial results are simply astonishing.  Amazon should consider “giving something back” to the world by helping tackle the crime which takes place in its name – even though it’s clearly not responsible for criminals pretending to be Amazon employees or entities.

We sent the concerns of IPS Members to them on 1st February but are still waiting to hear back.

There is an Amazon webpage which clearly captures the many ways the scams are conducted.  They clarify that Amazon “will NEVER call and ask you to install an app or ask for remote access to your computer”

Is it enough? It took some nifty searching from IPS to find this webpage – and we all know that you can’t really call Amazon for help or guidance. How could Amazon help older customers who are concerned or confused by attempted fraud – and can’t easily find out what is a scam and what is not a scam?

IPS View – Everyone in the UK needs to know about this scam and how Amazon actually contact people for real.   Amazon should tackle this head on and help protect us from sending money to criminals.

 

We would be delighted to work with Amazon putting forward the ideas of IPS member to help reduce the effectiveness of these scams. 

  • An Amazon video explaining how they really contact people and, crucially, what they don’t do in contacting people.  They could put this on their home page, on their Amazon Prime TV menu, on their app.  #Amazon can show their customers they care enough to stop fraud being conducted in their name.
  • A TV and newspaper campaign would help.
  • A social media campaign to promote the video would be useful.
  • A statement from Jeff Bezos or an update from new man Andy Jassy on this subject would carry a lot of impact as well.

Helping consumers fight the scammers would really help customers think of Amazon in a completely different light.  It might set them apart from the travails of Google, Apple and Facebook – see IPS article.

IPS SUMMARY

IPS and our members stand ready to work with, and test out, new ways of communicating securely that will minimise the opportunity for crime.  We will report back on how those conversations develop.

Have your say

As an IPS member, you can leave us your thoughts, comments and experiences in the commments section below

One Response

  1. alexsbruce says:

    I had three automated calls purportedly from Amazon today, claiming my annual subscription to Amazon Prime had been processed and mentioning the sum I had been charged then giving me options to cancel or to find out more. Third time, I selected to find out more and was transferred to a call centre where I remonstrated with the person and demanded to be removed from their call list. So far, they haven’t called a fourth time but no doubt they will!

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