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HMRC calls on universities to protect students from growing tax scams

The HMRC has warned that new university students could be the likely target of a fresh wave of tax scams.

HMRC calls on universities to protect students from growing tax scams
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In order to ensure all students new to university are cyber aware, the HMRC is writing to UK universities advising them to warn 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.

The HMRC has warned that fraudsters use a range of methods to target students, most commonly by sending fake tax refunds using seemingly legitimate university email addresses in order to avoid detection.

“Cyber criminals use every means they can to steal money and personal data from students. That’s why HMRC is asking all UK universities to make sure students know how to protect themselves,” said Jesse Norman, financial secretary to the Treasury.

“HMRC is 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, urged students 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,” Mr Jarvis said.

HMRC has so far advised university leaders that 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.

If students receive an email offering money sent to them by someone claiming to be HMRC and it seems too good to be true, they are being encouraged to report it to [email protected].

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