Students targeted with fake tax refund emails

University students are being targeted by scammers with offers of fake tax refunds, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned.

Since the end of December, HMRC has seen the emergence of email scams targeting several UK universities including Cambridge, Heriot Watt, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, St Andrews, Plymouth and Wolverhampton.

The scam emails say HMRC owes the student money and asks them to enter their details on a website to receive the refund.

The revenue body’s customer protection team has been receiving reports directly from students receiving the emails at their official university email addresses, and has been working to thwart the scammers.

A spokeswoman for HMRC said: “Fraudsters can use a range of methods to target students, most commonly by sending fake tax refunds to students’ university email addresses.

“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.

“HMRC will never tell taxpayers about a tax refund by asking them to click on a link. One way to safely claim a refund is to log into your personal tax account.”

The warning was issued as the self-assessment tax return deadline looms on January 31.

Here are some tips from HMRC:

– Recognise the signs – genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your Pin, password or bank details

– Stay safe – do not give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you were not expecting

– Take action – forward suspect emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599

– Check gov.uk for information on how to avoid and report scams and to recognise genuine HMRC contact

– If you think you have received an HMRC-related phishing or bogus email or text message, you can check it against examples published on gov.uk

– Contact your bank immediately if you believe you have submitted card details to a scammer and report to Action Fraud if you suffer financial loss

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