HMRC is calling on universities to warn their students, particularly freshers with their limited experience of the tax system, that they could very well be targeted by tax scams.
The government believes that with universities relying more on online tuition this year, as well as an increase in remote working due to the pandemic, students could be left particularly vulnerable to the work of fraudsters.
In August this year, 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.
Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, commented, “Cyber criminals use every method they can to steal money and personal data from students.
“We are concerned that remote working because of Covid-19 could lead to more tax scams targeting a new and potentially vulnerable university intake.
“HM Revenue and Customs are doing everything they can to clamp down on cyber fraud, but students also need to be vigilant. We would urge university principals to take a lead in helping to protect their students from these cyber criminals by raising awareness of what to look out for.”
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said, “The security and welfare of students is always a priority for universities. The message to students, at what is a particularly stressful time, is to remain vigilant and question anything that seems unusual. Any student who fears their account may have been misused is encouraged to speak to either university support services, their bank, or to the police via Action Fraud.”
Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, added, “I want every student to be as safe as possible this term, both online and offline, and it is absolutely vital they are aware of the risks posed by tax scams.
“I encourage institutions to warn students about this issue and arm them with the information they need to identify and respond to tax scams if they should be targeted.”
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