Tesco staff prevent scam after man told to buy £800 worth of gift cards by fraudsters

PUBLISHED: 16:35 28 November 2018 | UPDATED: 16:41 28 November 2018

The incident happened at Tesco in Sudbury Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

The incident happened at Tesco in Sudbury Picture: GOOGLE MAPS


Sharp-eyed staff at a Suffolk supermarket stepped in to stop a man in his 60s from being the victim of a scam when he attempted to buy hundreds of pounds worth of gift cards.

After receiving a call from someone claiming to be from HMRC, the man entered the Tesco store in Sudbury on Monday morning and tried to purchase £800 worth of Google Play gift cards.

According to an employee at the Springlands Way store, the man was told he owed £800 in tax and to have the cards ready by 2.30pm otherwise he would be arrested.

The scammers warned the man that the only way to avoid arrest was to buy the cards and read all the serial numbers over the phone when they called back.

Staff in the supermarket asked the man what the cards were for and he informed them about the call he had received from ‘HMRC’ and the transaction was stopped.

HMRC said it is aware of the scam and reminded people that it never requests tax debts are paid in gift cards.

A spokesman for HMRC said: “We are aware that some people have received telephone calls from individuals claiming to be from HMRC.

“We’ll only ever call you asking for payment on a debt that you are already aware of, either having received a letter about it, or after you’ve told us you owe some tax, for example through a Self-Assessment return.

“We will never request tax debts are paid in payment vouchers or gift cards.

“If you’re in doubt we recommend that you end the call and contact HMRC using one of the numbers or online services available from GOV.UK.”

A Tesco spokesman said: “We raise awareness with colleagues about scams of this nature and we’re very pleased we were able to help this customer.”

A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said: “Police received a call on Monday afternoon of a report of an incident of attempted fraud.

“A male victim in his 60s entered Tesco’s supermarket on Springlands Way attempting to buy a hundreds of pounds worth of vouchers.

“It follows a phone call the victim received the same day made by fraudsters claiming that he would be prosecuted if he didn’t.

“No transaction took place and the victim has been given words of advice.”

Suffolk Trading Standards urged store employees to remain vigilant to this type of scam.

A spokesman for the organisation said: “Legitimate organisations will never ask for payment via gift card.

“If you work in a store that sells gift cards, stay vigilant and look out for individuals purchasing large quantities, as they are being used for a number of scams. 
“You can instances of scams by contacting us on 03454 040506 or alternatively contacting Suffolk police on 101.”

HMRC issued the following advice on scams:

1. Recognise the signs - genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details.

2. Stay safe - don’t give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting.

3. Take action - forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to and texts to 60599, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls or use their online fraud reporting tool.

4. Check GOV.UK for information on how to avoid and report scams and recognise genuine HMRC contact.

5. If you think you have received an HMRC related phishing/bogus email or text message, you can check it against the examples shown in this guide.

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