According to HMRC there's another email scam doing the rounds, trying to part people (especially the elderly) with their hard-earned cash. Apparently more than 1,500 reports of emails demanding iTunes gift cards in order to pay off a non-existent tax bill.
Apparently most victims are men over the age of 65, and are losing an average of £1,150. That's a lot of money to spend on albums and Clash of Clans microtransactions.
The scam works no different to any other. First up is a cold call from a random person claiming to be from HMRC, telling the recipient that they have a hefty tax bill owed. They're then told to go online and buy gift cards for digital stores, like iTunes, and asked to read out the redemption code. Apparently most victims agree because they don't actually know what an iTunes voucher is, and don't realise it's a bit suspicious that HMRC deals with music money.
HMRC is said to be working with Apple and other campaign groups to deal with the problem, and make sure people know how to spot and report the problem. Apple even has a dedicated support page for this type of scam, and has had a disclaimer on the back of its physical gift cards ever since October reading "The card cannot be used for any payments outside of the UK App Store or iTunes Store, including taxes."
HMRC has described the scammers as "very confident, convincing and utterly ruthless".
"We urge people with elderly relatives to warn them about this scam and remind them that they should never trust anyone who phones them out of the blue and asks them to pay a tax bill. If you think you've been a victim, you should contact Action Fraud immediately."
If HMRC want money from you they'll write to you first, and they only deal in cold hard cash - not gift cards or vouchers. The same goes for anyone else who might ring you up demanding money for a variety of reasons - including outstanding debts, bail money, and utility fees. If you are worried ring the appropriate company yourself with a number you know is legitimate, or go to the official website.