HMRC has warned that hundreds of thousands of students may have been the intended victims of a scam that involved thieves sending out fake emails about a tax refund, in a targetted attempt to steal personal information and banking details.
The emails are reported to have HMRC and other official branding and will inform the recipient of a tax rebate and will provide a link to a webpage where bank details are to be entered. Students have been warned by HMRC not to click any of these links and report any phishing emails to HMRC and Action Fraud.
Students can report fraudulent emails claiming to be from HMRC by forwarding them to HMRC at firstname.lastname@example.org and suspicious texts to 60599.
Students who have suffered financial loss can contact Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or by using their online reporting tool.
HM Revenue and Customs have reported seeing a rise in the number of these emails being sent to students, reporting that those responsible have been using ‘ac.uk’ email addresses in an attempt to remain undetected.
HMRC have said that they have received thousands of reported cases of this scam from students studying all over the UK and that this is the first time they have seen an attempt targeting such a large number of students. They estimate that hundreds of thousands may have been targeted, and have stated that they will never ask for banking details via email, voicemail or text.
The University of Stirling has warned students about the scam by posting on their social media, asking that they “stay vigilant.”
Universities that are suspected of being at risk of being targeted include: 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, Warwick.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride MP, has said:
“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,”
“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.”
Mel Stride MP, Financial secretary to the Treasury
Pauline Smith, the Director of Action Fraud has urged students to report any suspected phishing emails and has warned about the risks of phishing emails and the damages that they cause.
“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.”
Pauline Smith, Director, Action Fraud
If any student has received a suspicious email or text or suspects that they have been a victim of these scams, please contact HM Revenue and Customs and Action Fraud as soon as possible.