HMRC issues warning after thousands of students targeted by fake tax refund emails

'Devious fraudsters will try every trick in the book'

Zamira Rahim@ZamiraRahim
Saturday 17 November 2018 11:57
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Universities urged to raise awareness
Universities urged to raise awareness

A rising number of students across hundreds of universities in the UK are being targeted by fraudsters sending fake tax refund emails.

HMRC said that it was the first time the authority has seen a tax scam focusing on students of such high numbers.

Thousands of those affected have reported fraud in just a few weeks, as scammers try to obtain their financial details.

Fake emails, which use addresses that can appear legitimate such as “uc.ac.uk”, may tell people that they are owed money and encourage them to send their personal details.

The emails and texts often include links that redirect students to websites where their data is then stolen.

“HMRC will never inform you about tax refunds by email, text or voicemail,” said Mel Stride, the financial secretary to the Treasury.

“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.”

Between April and September 2018, HMRC requested that 7,500 phishing sites be deactivated, a significant increase from the 5,200 similar requests made in the same period in 2017.

HMRC encouraged all universities to raise awarenesses of the scams and said that many were already taking action to protect students.

“Devious fraudsters will try every trick in the book to convince victims to hand over their personal information, often with devastating consequences,” said Pauline Smith, director of Action Fraud.

“It is vital that students spot the signs of fraudulent emails to avoid falling victim by following HMRC’s advice.”

Fraudulent emails often spoof the branding of GOV.UK or of well-known credit cards, in an attempt to seem authentic.

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The recipient’s name and email address may be repeated several times within the body of the email.

HMRC has specifically urged a number of universities to take action, including Aberdeen, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Imperial College London and King’s College London.

The tax authority has also encouraged Manchester Metropolitan University, Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Queen Mary, Queen’s, Southampton, Sussex, University College London and Warwick to raise awareness of the issue.

Students who receive suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC are urged to forward them to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and texts to 60599.

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