A man was left shocked after receiving a £119 phone bill after googling “HMRC phone number”.
Jared Evitts, a journalist at the BBC, attempted to find the number for HM Revenue and Customs “like the logical way” by googling it.
After finding what he believed to be the correct number, he spent 30 minutes on hold before having a “quick chat” on the phone.
But a few weeks later, he was shocked to find out the 39-minute call to the tax office had cost him a huge £119.05.
Questioning whether he had been scammed, he did some online research where he discovered this was a fairly common occurence.
He had called HMRC through a call connection service operated by a company called Bounce Tech Ltd.
As a result, Jared was charged a premium rate for the call that lasted just a few minutes.
Call connection services are monitored by the Phone-paid Service Authority (PSA) and while they are not illegal, they can charge high rates for calls to organisations that may otherwise be free or low cost.
But the PSA said the price must be clear and consumers made aware they are using a call connection service.
Jared isn’t the only person to be caught out by the tactic. Lesley Carthy, from Warrington, Cheshire, also googled the number and called them in June.
She was shocked to receive a phone bill totalling £184.68 by Bounce Tech for a 51 minute call.
She told the BBC: “I saw this number online, I dialled it and obviously you’re in a queue. Nothing was told to me about a call charge. Then 50 minutes went by, it got answered and then the next thing, I got my phone bill.
“Phoning HMRC, you think you wouldn’t be calling on a premium number. I just can’t believe it, nobody can believe it.”
Emma Oliver, from Amble in Northumberland, was also charged £112.24 for a 29 minute call in June.
Emma, 52, said: “It was the week my dad had died, so I was actually off work and was making lots of phone calls to various companies regarding his death and pensions and payments. I don’t even know who Bounce Tech are, I wouldn’t personally ring them. I just think I just assumed you were ringing the company you were trying to ring, I had no idea.”
According to the PSA, while pricing information is available from Bounce Tech, it is easy to overlook due the speed at which it is played on the phone, and because of its lack of prominence on their website – particularly on a mobile device.
Lesley Carthy said she had been refunded in full by Bounce Tech for the call and Emma said she had also been refunded £104.82 by them.