A KEIGHLEY woman who was targeted by fraudsters is backing a national campaign warning people to be on their guard.

Andrea Walker, a town councillor, received several calls purporting to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) threatening prosecution for non-payment of taxes unless she parted with cash.

She realised it was a scam and refused to divulge her bank details.

But Councillor Walker, of Bar Lane, says she knows of other people who have been tricked into handing over money.

This week, HMRC said there had been a massive surge in incidents nationally.

In the six months to January this year, it received more than 60,000 reports of phone scams – a 360 per cent increase compared to the previous six months.

Now it has launched an initiative to raise awareness and urge the public to be vigilant.

“I fully support the campaign and am delighted that HMRC is issuing this warning,” said Cllr Walker.

“It was quickly clear to me that these calls were not genuine.

“I explained that I didn’t even qualify to pay income tax and when I refused to give my bank card details, the person started to become really nasty.

“She was extremely persistent and in the end I hung up.

“The sister of a friend of mine also received a call and she was conned into paying out £1,000.

“I warned her not to pay any more and she contacted her bank immediately.

“We got it sorted, but she was very shaken by the whole experience.”

HMRC said it had cracked down on e-mail and texting scams, but criminals were increasingly turning instead to ‘traditional’ methods of cold-calling publicly-available phone numbers – often landlines – to steal money.

It advises anyone who has doubts about the validity of a call to hang-up and contact HMRC on one of the numbers or online services available at gov.uk.

A spokesman said: “Genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details.”

People are asked to contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls, or use its online fraud reporting tool.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “Fraudsters will call your landline claiming to be from reputable organisations such as HMRC. Contact like this is designed to convince you to hand over valuable personal details or your money.

“Don’t assume anyone who calls you is who they say they are.

“If a person calls and asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be cautious and seek advice.”