University students working part-time jobs are at increased risk of falling victims to tax scams, HM Revenue and Customs warns.
The increased number of students going to university this year means that more young adults may seek doing part-time work to support themselves financially.
Being new to interacting with HMRC and unfamiliar with genuine contact from the department could make students vulnerable to scams.
With over 5,000 phone scams reported to HMRC by people aged 18 to 24 between April and May this year, Mike Fell, Head of Cyber Security Operations at HMRC, advised students on the matter.
He 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.
“Our advice is to be wary if you are contacted out of the blue by someone asking for money or personal information.
“We see high numbers of fraudsters contacting people claiming to be from HMRC.
“If in doubt, our advice is – do not reply directly to anything suspicious, but contact HMRC through GOV.UK straight away and search GOV.UK for ‘HMRC scams’.”
Nearly half of all tax scams offer fake tax refunds. HMRC does not offer these by SMS or email.
The criminals involved are usually trying to steal money or personal information to sell on to others.
HMRC is a familiar brand, which scammers abuse to add credibility to their scams.
Links or files in emails or texts can also download dangerous software onto a computer or phone.
This can then gather personal data or lock the recipient’s machine until they pay a ransom.
You can follow the National Cyber Security Centre’s steps on keeping secure online at CyberAware.gov.uk.
To prevent yourself from being a victim of phishing, HMRC advises to:
- Take a moment to think before parting with your money or information.
- Do not give out private information or reply to text messages, and do not download attachments or click on links in texts or emails you were not expecting.
- Do not trust caller ID on phones. Numbers can be spoofed.
- It is 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and texts to 60599. Report scam phone calls on GOV.UK.
- Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, and report it to Action Fraud.
Lead image: Howard Lake