University students are being targeted by scammers with fake tax refunds in an effort to steal money and personal details, HM Revenue and Customs has warned today.
The scammers are using seemingly legitimate university email addresses (for example “@uc.ac.uk”) in order to avoid detection.
This is the largest direct attack HMRC has seen on students, with thousands of fraud attempts being reported in just a few weeks across the country.
HMRC says that students have been targeted “at hundreds of universities”.
Large numbers of scams have been reported from these universities in particular: 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.
“HMRC will never inform you about tax refunds by email, text or voicemail,” the government department warned this morning. “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.”
And Pauline Smith, director of Action Fraud, the police’s national cyber crime reporting centre, said: “Devious fraudsters will try every trick in the book to convince victims to hand over their personal information, often with devastating consequences. It is vital that students spot the signs of fraudulent emails to avoid falling victim by following HMRC’s advice.”
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 asks that suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC should be forwarded to to firstname.lastname@example.org. Similarly, suspicious texts can be sent to 60599.
If you suffer financial loss, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online fraud reporting tool.
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