"CONFIDENT, convincing and utterly ruthless" scammers are targeting vulnerable and older people in Dorset this Christmas, government campaigners have warned.

Angela MacDonald, director general of customer services for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said fraudsters are conning victims out of thousands of pounds.

The criminals cold-call victims and impersonate an HMRC member of staff. Victims are told they owe large amounts of tax, which can only be paid off through digital vouchers and gift cards, including those used for Apple’s iTunes Store.

Victims are told to go to a shop, buy the vouchers and then read out the redemption code to the scammer, who has kept them on the phone the whole time. The conmen then sell on the codes or purchase high-value products, all at the victim’s expense.

The scammers frequently use intimidation to get what they want, threatening to seize the victim’s property or involve the police.

As reported in the Daily Echo, 13 reports of the scam were made to Dorset Police in one day from residents in the north and east of the county.

Ms MacDonald said HMRC would never request the settling of debt through such a method.

“These scammers are very confident, convincing and utterly ruthless," she said.

“These scams often prey on vulnerable people. We urge people with elderly relatives to warn them about this scam and remind them that they should never trust anyone who phones them out of the blue and asks them to pay a tax bill."