If there’s one thing you can rely on when it comes to the taxman, it’s the fact that he likes his bills to be settled using cold, hard cash – preferably deposited directly into his account. Some even would have you believe you can pay in iTunes gift cards….

I mean, wouldn’t you be a teensy bit suspicious if he rang up and asked you to settle in, say, Laura Ashley vouchers or send him some gift cards for a skydiving experience day?

Sadly, some vulnerable people haven’t quite got the message. That’s why I was saddened to read of a 65-year-old man from Scotland who got fleeced by scammers posing as HMRC representatives.

Whoever was responsible told the victim he owed just under £1,000 in unpaid tax and that if he didn’t pay up – he could face a bill of some £17,000.

The pensioner was unsurprisingly worried. And the scammers took advantage of this by sending him to the local supermarket to buy hundreds of pounds worth of iTunes gift cards.

In this case, the story had a happy ending. A shop assistant asked the man what he was doing, and she told him it sounded like a scam. He took her advice and didn’t pay up.

Many others haven’t been so lucky. Apple itself admits that iTunes gift cards have been at the centre of many scams in many different countries – with fraudsters demanding payment for taxes, hospital bills, utility bills and even bail money. Once the victim has bought the cards, they are told to read out the 16-digit code on the back of each card, which allows the scammer to access the money.

So, if you receive a call from someone who says they are the taxman, and they ask for payment in anything other than real money, put the phone down. And if you have any doubt at all, call HMRC using one of their official telephone numbers.

Of course, if you use THP’s accountants to handle your tax returns, we are on hand to advise you about what needs to be paid to HMRC and when – don’t part with a penny unless we advise you to. Otherwise some scammer out there will be buying an awful lot of music at your expense.

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About Ben Locker

Ben Locker is a copywriter who specialises in business-to-business marketing, writing about everything from software and accountancy to construction and power tools. He co-founded the Professional Copywriters’ Network, the UK’s association for commercial writers, and is named in Direct Marketing Association research as ‘one of the copywriters who copywriters rate’.

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