Why UK students at a risk of tax scams

Highlights 

  • Students taking part-time jobs are more vulnerable to scams due to less interaction with HMRC.
  • Around a million people reported scams to HMRC last year.
  • Over 5,000 phone scams have been reported by students in the 18-24 age group between April and May 2021.

The tax, payments and customs authority of the UK, the Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned that there is a high risk that university students getting trapped in job scams and other investment scams that offer tax refunds or ask them to pay unpaid tax.

During the 2020/21 academic year, there were over 900,000 university students who were doing part-time jobs, several of whom were employed for the first time. As beginners, these students are more susceptible to scams, as they haven’t interacted with HMRC before and, also they are not familiar with how the department genuinely makes contact.

Mike Fell, head of cyber security operations at HMRC, said: “As most students don’t have any idea about paying taxes before, and we have seen a trend that they get easily be duped by texts, emails or social media messages, which talks about a refund on unpaid tax.”

Over 5,000 phone scams have been reported by students in the 18-24 age group between April and May 2021, and approximately 1 million people have reported scams to HMRC last year. Around 998,485 referrals from the public have been responded to by HMRC in the past year regarding suspicious and apprehensive contact made. Almost around half of them were offering bogus tax rebates.

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Amid the rising number of bogus messages being circulated, even Jim Harra, CEO of HMRC, got reportedly a scam call earlier this year by a fraudster faking to be from the department.

Scammers usually attach links or files in the emails and texts they send to the victims, through which malicious softwares are downloaded into their phones or computers. This helps in stealing confidential information of the victims, which is used as to extract a ransom from them. HMRC has, thus, clarified that they don’t contact students regarding a tax rebate or penalty and ask for their confidential payment information via email, text, WhatsApp or a phone call.

The phishing team of the department should be immediately reported in case such a contact is made, dubious text message should be sent to 60599, and emails and screenshots may be sent to [email protected] Action Fraud can also be reported on 0300 123 2040. In case the victims were already lured into sending their confidential information to the scammers, an email should be sent to [email protected]

Actual information given out need not be shared by the victims while reporting the scam, just the description of what has been disclosed, for example HMRC user ID, name, and address.

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