HMRC warns retailers to be vigilant against iTunes scam

12 February 2018

HMRC is urging subpostmasters to share details of the high-profile iTunes phone scam with their staff so that they can act as the last line of defence against criminals who are conning vulnerable and elderly people out of thousands of pounds.

The scam sees fraudsters cold call their victims, impersonating HMRC members of staff, to tell them that they owe large amounts of tax which they can only pay off through Apple’s iTunes gift cards. Victims are told to go to a local shop, buy these cards, and then read out the redemption code to the fraudster. The codes are then sold on or used to purchase high-value products.

HMRC said that following its recent awareness campaign, several retail workers across the UK have warned customers buying hundreds of pounds worth of iTunes vouchers about the scam.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s director general of customer service, said: “It’s really reassuring to see reports of supermarket staff, off their own bat, taking action to keep customers safe. Raising public awareness is the best safeguard against this vicious scam.

“Shop staff are often the last line of defence against these fraudsters. That’s why I’ve written to the chief executives of major UK retailers to urge them to make their staff aware of this scam so they can help protect unsuspecting customers.”

Figures from Action Fraud show that there have been more than 1,500 reports of this scam since 2016. Most of the victims are aged over 65 and suffered an average financial loss of £1,150 each. Despite campaigns by HMRC and law enforcement agencies people are still falling victim to the scam, with the highest loss being reported last week of an 81-year-old man losing £20,000 after being repeatedly targeted.