Profiling HMRC and IRS Scammers by Utilising Trolling Videos: Offender Characteristics

Calli Tzani Pepelasi, Mirjana G Nilsson, David Lester, Ntaniella R Pylarinou, Maria Ioannou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Fraud has become a global problem, with victims of fraud suffering financially, psychologically and emotionally; to the extent that some individuals even attempt suicide due to embarrassment, shame and anger. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and Internal Revenue Services (IRS) scams are one type of fraud that has risen significantly in the past few years. The majority of these scams originate in countries where the police have limited resources to tackle them, whilst the Western countries that suffer huge financial losses have no jurisdiction in the countries where the scammers are based. Consequently, there is limited available research on tax scams, limited information on the characteristics of the offenders who execute them, and a great need for more awareness and public protection. The present exploratory study used 30 YouTube videos where Internet trolls engage with HMRC/IRS scammers. The Internet trolls attempted to preoccupy the scammers by making the HMRC/IRS scammers believe they have identified a potential victim, a potential “win”, thus wasting their time and potentially stopping them from victimising someone else. The qualitative analysis of the 30 YouTube videos indicates that individuals should be vigilant when they receive calls from persons with foreign accents and poor English spoken vocabulary, alleging they are from the HMRC or IRS tax institutions. The scammers issue unrealistic, personal threats, use erroneous grammar and foul language, phish for personal information, demand secrecy over the transaction, and show disrespect and disdain for the victim. They also request immediate payment over the phone by means that are not HMRC/IRS approved. The limitations and implications of the study are discussed in detail.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-178
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Forensic and Investigative Accounting
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


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