HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has wanted students heading to university for the first time to be vigilant of scams reacting to tax rebates, as many take on part-time work to help fund their student lifestyles.
For many young people, finding a part-time job or freelance work while at university could be their first experience of employment, and will be their first time interacting with the taxman, meaning they could be unfamiliar with what constitutes genuine contact from HMRC and what is a scam.
In the last year alone, almost one million people reported scams to HMRC, of which half purported to be offering tax rebates. HMRC is reinforcing the message that it never offers tax refunds by text message or email.
The scammers are usually trying to steal money, or personal information to sell to other criminals, and using the HMRC brand adds credibility to the scams.
The messages typically contain links that will download malicious software to computers or smartphones, which then gathers personal information, or locks the machine or device until a ransom is paid.
Mike Fell, Head of Cyber Security Operations at HMRC, said: “Most students won’t have paid tax before, and so could easily be duped by scam texts, emails or calls either offering a ‘refund’ or demanding unpaid tax.
“Students, who will have had little or no interaction with the tax system might be tricked into clicking on links in such emails or texts.”
Fell advises that anyone contacted and asked for money or personal information should remain wary, adding that the organisation has seen high numbers of people claiming to be HMRC.
If you have received a message that claims to be from HMRC and you are in doubt, then do not reply, and contact HMRC via GOV.UK and search on the website for ‘HMRC scams’.
By June this year, more than 680,000 students had applied to university, and over 900,000 held part-time jobs during the 2020 to 2021 academic year.