New efforts to crack down on scam HMRC text messages

In recent weeks, mobile phone operators have begun trialling new software and filters in hopes of eliminating the growing problem of scam text messages purporting to be from legitimate financial institutions such as HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

According to a report in The Telegraph, numerous telecoms companies such as O2 are now using “artificial intelligence” in order to “identify common characteristics of scam messages” and filter-out scam texts before they are received by mobile phone users.

The news comes after a recent study found that people in the UK are nine times more likely to fall victim to a text message scam than to an email phishing attack.

Meanwhile, the latest figures from Financial Fraud Action UK suggest that the overall scale of financial fraud in Britain rose to £768.8 million last year, up from £755 million in 2015.

Earlier this year, HMRC began trialling its own software to counteract the problem.

The Revenue recently introduced new measures to protect its so-called ‘alpha tags’ – words which can replace numbers as the ‘sender addresses’ of text messages – forcing cyber-criminals to use less convincing ‘tags’ in their messages.

HMRC claims that its efforts have already managed to reduce ‘fake’ HMRC texts by as much as 90 per cent.

Nevertheless, email phishing scams purporting to be from the tax authority are still at large.

Anyone who is unsure about any unsolicited contact purporting to be from HMRC should seek the advice of their accountant, or visit the Revenue’s guidance on how to spot genuine HMRC contact here.