HMRC calls on universities to protect students from tax scams
Warning from HMRC and Universities UK about tax related email scams.
New students starting university this year could be likely targets of a fresh wave of tax scams, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) warns. This comes as HMRC writes to UK universities advising them to warn new students about tax scams sent by fraudsters to steal students’ money and personal details.
Over 620,000 tax-related email scams were reported to HMRC last year – up by 20,000 on the previous year – including thousands of reports the department received about scam emails targeting students.
HMRC wants to ensure all students new to University this year are cyber aware for when repeat attacks hit their inboxes.
Fraudsters can use a range of methods to target students, most commonly by sending fake tax refunds using seemingly legitimate university email addresses (often ending in ‘ac.uk’) in order to avoid detection.
Depending on the details a criminal is able to obtain from a student, they could steal money, set up direct debits, make purchases for valuable goods on online sites or even take control of their computer – being able to access functions such as their webcam.
Jesse Norman MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, yesterday said:
“Cyber criminals use every means they can to steal money and personal data from students. That’s why HMRC are asking all UK universities to make sure students know how to protect themselves.
“HMRC are doing everything they can to clamp down on online fraud, but students and their families need to be vigilant, especially amid all the stresses and strains of going to university. I would urge University principals to take a lead in helping to protect students from these cyber thieves.”
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive at Universities UK, yesterday said:
“This action will help to raise awareness of the risks of tax scams. The security and welfare of students is always a top priority for universities. The message to students is to remain vigilant and question anything that seems unusual. We would encourage any student who fears their account may have been misused to speak to either their university support services, banks, or to the police.”
The letters to universities, authored by HMRC’s Head of Cyber Security, encourages colleges to raise awareness of tax-related scams at the start of this academic year and to integrate scam advice into guidance for new students if not already established.
HMRC advised university leaders students are “more likely to be taken in” by tax scams because students may have “had little or no interaction with the tax system”. This could make the offer of a tax refund from a scammer seem attractive, especially when on a budget.
Often HMRC-related email scams spoof the branding of GOV.UK and well-known organisations in an attempt to look authentic. The recipient’s name and email address may be included several times within the email itself.
As well as email tricks, phone scams have also been used increasingly by criminals in an attempt to threaten taxpayers into handing over cash – HMRC had over 100,000 reports of such scams last year, compared to 400 in 2016. HMRC has since introduced defensive controls with Ofcom and mobile networks to curtail these scams.
If students receive an email offering money sent to them by someone claiming to be HMRC and it seems too good to be true, then they should report it to email@example.com.
ActionFraud is the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre.
We provide a central point of contact for information about fraud and cyber crime.
The easiest way to report fraud and cyber crime is by using our online reporting tool.Report
Latest News from
National Courier Fraud Practitioners Day16/10/2019 14:33:00
Police officers and staff from across the country are set to attend a special national Courier Fraud Practitioners Day, tomorrow (Thursday, 17 October).
The easy way to stop your online accounts getting hacked02/10/2019 10:20:00
Two-factor authentication (2FA) can help protect your online accounts, even if your password is stolen!
Fraudster sentenced after funding luxury holidays through £50k smishing scam01/10/2019 13:20:00
A fraudster from London who went on luxury holidays abroad after harvesting details from thousands of bank customers has been sentenced to two years and nine months in prison.
Banking industry stops £4.5 million of fraud a day in first half of 201927/09/2019 10:20:00
The finance industry prevented £820 million of unauthorised fraud in the first half of 2019.
Thomas Cook "refund" scams on the rise26/09/2019 15:20:00
We are aware of reports on social media that criminals are using the Thomas Cook liquidation as an opportunity to lure victims into financial scams.
Barclays issues warning to university students, as number of under-21s recruited as money mules nearly doubles19/09/2019 15:15:00
New money mule warning issued by Barclays.
Helen Skelton reveals that she lost £70,000 following bank scam call10/09/2019 10:20:00
TV and radio presenter Helen Skelton has revealed that she was scammed out of her savings after falling victim to fraudsters over the phone.
Fraudster jailed and ordered to pay back money following reports made to Action Fraud06/09/2019 10:20:00
A fraudster who conned his victims into paying thousands of pounds for deposits for rental properties, has been jailed and ordered to pay back the money he stole following reports made to Action Fraud.