QUICK-THINKING staff at a Tesco store have been praised for foiling fraudsters who tried to con victims in an iTunes scam.

Two employees at the retail giant's Linwood branch came to the rescue after spotting customers buying hundreds of pounds of iTunes vouchers.

After speaking to the customers, the staff realised they were being tricked into buying the vouchers to settle a fictitious tax bill.

The scam involves crooks preying on victims by impersonating a HMRC employee and telling them they owe large amounts of tax which they can only pay 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 read out the redemption code to the scammer, who has kept them on the phone the whole time.

The criminals then sell on the codes or purchase high-value products, all at the victims' expense.

Mel Stride MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, has now written to the Tesco staff in Linwood to congratulate them for foiling the scam.

He said: "I'd like to thank the diligent staff at Tesco Linwood who spotted the tell-tale signs and acted quickly to stop criminals using the HMRC brand to steal from vulnerable people.

“HMRC’s awareness campaign to alert the public is clearly paying off and it is fantastic to see frontline retail employees acting as the last line of defence.”

The scammers frequently use intimidation to get what they want, threatening to seize victims' property or involve the police.

The use of vouchers is an attractive scam as they are easy to sell on and hard to trace once used.

According to HMRC, the vast majority of victims are over 65 and suffer an average financial loss of £1,150.

A spokesperson for HMRC said: "We would never request the settling of debt through such a method.

"HMRC is taking action daily to shut down scamming operations, including identifying and initiating the take-down of website links being used by criminals, blocking text messages, blocking emails and recent high-profile awareness campaigns."

Anyone who thinks they are being targeted in a scam is asked to call the Action Fraud team on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls.