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Students targeted by HMRC scam emails

HMRC is warning students to be on their guard against scams aimed at tricking them out of their details.

Tom Harrison
Content writer
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Posted 25 SEPTEMBER 2019

New students starting university this year could be targeted by tax scams, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned.

More than 620,000 tax-related email scams were reported to HMRC last year – up 20,000 on the previous year. These included thousands aimed at students.

Now the government body is writing to UK universities advising them to warn new students about scams aimed at stealing money and personal details.

How students are being targeted

The scams take the form of fake offers of tax refunds using fake university email addresses. These look convincing as they often end in “ac.uk”. They might also fake the branding of organisations such as GOV.UK and include the recipient’s name and email address.

Fraudsters can use the information they get to spend online, steal money, set up direct debits or even take control of the student’s computer, accessing features like the webcam.

“HMRC is doing everything they can to clamp down on online fraud, but students and their families need to be vigilant, especially amid all the stresses and strains of going to university,” said Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive at Universities UK, said: "The message to students is to remain vigilant and question anything that seems unusual.

"We would encourage any student who fears their account may have been misused to speak to either their university support services, banks, or to the police."

HMRC said students may be particularly susceptible to tax scams if they’ve had limited or no contact with the tax system previously. The offer of a tax refund could also seem attractive, especially if the student is on a budget.

Criminals have also used phone scams to trick people into handing over money. 100,000 of the scams were reported to HMRC last year, compared with 400 in 2016.

Tips for staying safe from scams

Don’t give your details: genuine organisations, such as banks and HMRC, will never ask you for your PIN, password or bank details.

Never reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting.

Don’t overshare: on social media, in particular, be careful not to share personal data such as your home address or email address.

Take action: forward any suspected fake emails claiming to be from HMRC to [email protected] and texts to 60599.

If you believe you’ve given financial details to a scammer, contact your bank immediately.

Finally, students are urged to check GOV.UK for more on how to avoid and report scams, and to recognise genuine HMRC contact.

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