Thousands of university students have been targeted with fake tax refund emails in an attempt to steal their banking and personal details, HM Revenue and Customs has said.
HMRC has received thousands of fraud reports recently in what it said was they believe “the first scam directly targeting university students in such high volumes”.
Scammers were using what appeared to be legitimate university email addresses, for example @uc.ac.uk, in order to avoid detection. As with other similar tax scams, scammers sent a message telling the recipient that they were due a tax refund. Often, these messages replicated well known branding such as that of Gov.UK and also for well-known credit cards in an attempt to appear authentic.
If someone who received one of the messages clicked on a link, they would then be asked to enter their banking and other personal details allowing the fraudster to steal money from their account.
Financial secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride commented ““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 [[email protected]].
“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.”
If you think you have been a victim of such a scam we recommend you first contact your bank to see if there has been any fraudulent activity. They will also be able to advise on any further measures you should take.
You should also immediately update your passwords on all sites.
There are several rules to follow to help you avoid scams and these include:
- If you receive an unexpected offer of a refund then double check it by contacting the organisation directly and not through the information emailed to you. Make sure you know the number you are using is legitimate.
- Be careful when clicking links and look carefully at the website address and other details to make sure they match the real thing. Fraudsters often add similar names to emails and website addresses.
- HMRC, banks and other companies will never ask for your PIN of verification codes. If they are asking too much stop the conversation and ring them back after checking the phone number and contact details.
- Unfortunately if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
If you have any questions about tax communications, refunds, tax returns or other dealings with HMRC about your business or if you are a sole trader, please contact MCC Accountants for an informal discussion on our tax advisory services and tax planning.