HMRC issues tax scams warning to students

Students who started university this year are being warned by HMRC that they are being targeted by a fresh wave of online tax scams.

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, says HMRC.

First years are 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.

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’.

Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “We are concerned that remote working because of Covid-19 could lead to more tax scams targeting a new and potentially vulnerable university intake.”

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