HMRC recently warned students about a fresh wave of cyber frauds offering them bogus tax refunds.
The department explained it would normally expect to see a small, regular flow of scam referrals from students, but recently saw a sudden spike in students reporting suspected scams sent to their official college email addresses.
When new scams emerge targeting students at particular colleges, HMRC finds that they often spread. The department has therefore warned students to take a moment to think before parting with personal information.
HMRC’s Customer Protection Team has asked internet service providers to take down malicious web pages associated with the scam and has alerted colleges and the National Union of Students.
HMRC’s advice to students is:
• Take a moment to think before parting with your information or money.
• Don’t give out private information or reply to text messages and don’t download attachments or click on links in texts or emails you weren’t expecting.
• It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests – only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
• Search ‘scams’ on GOV.UK for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact and how to avoid and report scams.
• Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to email@example.com and texts to 60599.
• Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam and report it to Action Fraud.
HMRC recently released its scams annual statistics, to show the scale of the problem:
Some 4,030 people told HMRC during the past year that they had disclosed personal information to cybercriminals, compared with 3,492 in 2018-2019.
More than 203,000 people reported phone scams to HMRC during the past year (April 2019 – March 2020), an increase of 95% on the previous year.
During April this year alone, HMRC received 43,333 reports from the public about phishing scams – an increase of 34%.
It reported 1,742 suspicious phone numbers to telecommunication companies for a takedown during 2019-2020, up from 868 the previous year
In the year to March 2020, HMRC received 575,624 scam referrals from the public.
HMRC asked internet service providers to take down 7,268 malicious web pages during the year to March 2020, more than half identified by HMRC’s Customer Protection Team before they were reported by the public.
Finally, nearly 450,000 people used HMRC’s GOV.UK scams advice pages during 2019-2020.