MSE News

University students targeted by tax scams

Scammers are telling university students they are due tax refunds in an attempt to steal their money and personal details, HM Revenue & Customs has warned.

The tax authority has received thousands of fraud reports in just a few weeks from students at universities across the UK, with many saying that the scammers are using seemingly legitimate email addresses (for example '@uc.ac.uk').

The scam texts and emails regularly include links which take students to websites where their information can be stolen.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) says it is the first time it has seen a tax scam attack directly targeting university students in such high volumes. It is encouraging all universities to raise awareness of the scam.

See 30+ Ways to Stop Scams to protect yourself.

Watch out for phishing scams

'Phishing' is a type of spam where scammers try to reel you in with the hope that you've got a connection to the company they're pretending to be from.

To avoid getting caught out:

  • Don't assume an email or text is authentic. Phone numbers and email addresses can be spoofed, so always contact the alleged sender directly via a known email or phone number if you want to get in touch.

  • Beware clicking on links/files. Don't be tricked into giving a fraudster access to your personal or financial details and never automatically click on a link in an unexpected text or email.

  • HMRC won't ask for your PIN, bank details or password. Other organisations such as banks also wouldn't do this.

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.

What does the Government say?

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride 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."

You can report this type of scam to HMRC or to Action Fraud.