Students warned about fake HMRC email scam

HMRC has issued a warning to university students that they are being targeted by scammers with fake tax refunds in an effort to steal money and personal details, after receiving thousands of fraud reports in just a few weeks from students at colleges across the UK

The scammers are using seemingly legitimate university email addresses (for example ‘@uc.ac.uk’) in order to avoid detection.

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

It warns there are particular risks for those at Aberdeen, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Imperial College London, King’s College London, Manchester Metropolitan, Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Queen Mary (London), Queen’s (Belfast), Southampton, Sussex, University College London, and Warwick, all of which have seen substantial numbers of fake emails.

Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘HMRC will never inform you about tax refunds by email, text or voicemail. If you receive one of these messages it is a scam. Do not click on any links in these messages, and forward them to HMRC’s phishing email address.

‘Although HMRC is cracking down hard on internet scams, criminals will stop at nothing to steal personal information. I’d encourage all students to become phishing aware - it could save you a lot of money.’

HMRC is encouraging all universities to raise awareness of scams and many have already begun taking action to warn their students of the risks.

In its advice, the tax authority cautions that often HMRC related email scams spoof the branding of gov.uk and well known credit cards in 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.

HMRC has reiterated advice that it will never anyone out of the blue to ask for their PIN, password or bank details, and has cautioned students not to give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails they were not expecting.

Suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC should be forwarded to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and texts to 60599.

Report by Pat Sweet

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