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HMRC warn of tax scams targeting university students

Newsletter issue - December 2018

HMRC have published a series of warnings that university students are being targeted by scammers with fake tax refunds in an effort to steal money and personal details.

The scammers are using seemingly legitimate university email addresses (for example '@uc.ac.uk') in order to avoid detection, and HMRC have received thousands of fraud reports from students at colleges across the UK.

This is the first time HMRC has seen a tax scam attack directly targeting university students in such high volumes.

HMRC never inform people about potential tax refunds by email, text or voicemail. Therefore, if someone does receive such a notification, they can be certain that it is a scam. People should not click on any links in these messages, and they should be forwarded to HMRC's phishing email address (phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk).

HMRC are taking action encouraging all universities to raise awareness of scams and many have already begun taking action to warn their students of the risks. Often HMRC-related email scams spoof the branding of GOV.UK and well known credit cards in an attempt to look authentic. The recipient's name and email address may be included several times within the email itself.

Fraudulent emails and texts will regularly include links which take students to websites where their information can be stolen. Between April and September this year, HMRC requested that 7,500 of these phishing sites be deactivated. This compares to around 5,200 requests during the same period in 2017. Last year HMRC deactivated more than 20,000 fake HMRC websites, an increase of 29% on the previous year.

To avoid falling foul of the scams, people should:

  • avoid disclosing private information, such as personal data, bank account details, PIN numbers etc.;
  • not reply to text messages purporting to be from HMRC or other Government department;
  • not click on any links in unexpected emails or download any attachments.

Individuals who are the victim of an attempted fraud can contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or report the fraud using their online tool.

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