Students warned to avoid tax scams

Readers with children at university should pass on this message as students starting university this year are being warned by HMRC that they could be targeted by a fresh wave of tax scams.

As new students start the academic year, they can be particularly vulnerable to cybercrime. With universities taking a blended approach to online and face-to-face tuition this year, and an increase in remote working due to the pandemic, students could be left particularly exposed to the work of fraudsters.

Freshers might also be more vulnerable to these types of scams due to their limited experience of the tax system.

HMRC has written to universities, through Universities UK, asking them to help ensure their students know how to spot a scam.

In August, HMRC received reports from the public of more than 74,800 scam emails, text messages and phone calls. Nearly 41,300 of these specifically offered bogus tax rebates.

Thousands of these scams were targeted at students and the criminals involved appear to have obtained their personal university email addresses by unlawful means. These scams often offer fake tax refunds or help with claiming COVID-related financial support.

Phishing email messages can also provide a gateway for criminals. Students who provide personal details in response can end up inadvertently giving access to important accounts, like email or online banking, leaving scammers free to commit fraud and steal their money.

Criminals also use phone scams to threaten taxpayers into handing over cash. Some 651,600 scams have been referred to HMRC since August last year. Of those, more than 215,660 were voice or phone scams, known as vishing.

If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help, are due a tax refund or owe tax, and asks for bank details, it might be a scam. Check GOV.UK for how to recognise genuine HMRC contact.

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