In October the Head of Cyber Operations in HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) wrote Vice-Cahncellors of UK universities to warn of scams targeting students in the new academic year.
He predicted a “wave of email and text tax scams, targeting a new and
potentially vulnerable university intake.”
The letter mentioned the following types of scams as particular risks:
- Fake tax refunds or help with claiming Covid-related financial help.
- Offers of ‘support’ to reclaim council tax, where the scammer says they are from TV Licensing, the DVLA or ‘GovUK’.
- Criminals approaching students to act as ‘money mules’, with offers of reward to transfer funds through their own, genuine financial accounts, inadvertently laundering criminal funds.
The letter ends by asking universities to do their part to keep students safe from scams:
We are therefore asking each university to join us again in raising awareness of HMRC scams as early as possible in the academic year and in encouraging university leaders to ensure fraud prevention and cyber advice is integrated into your guidance for new students, to help prevent financial loss.
That call was backed by UK Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan,:
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.
HMRC’s tips to avoid being scammed
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and texts to 60599
- Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, and report it to Action Fraud.
Examples of current scamming frauds can be found on GOV.UK.
Knowledge is the best defence
As an international student, the best way to protect yourself from scams is to ensure you understand the risks and warning signs.
Study Guard can help. Take our free course on ‘Scams Targeting International Students‘ today.
It takes about 10 minutes and could save you from becoming a victim of a scam.