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HMRC letter to Universities for Student Intake

Dear all,

Last year HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) issued a warning to students to be vigilant about tax scams targeting them from seemingly legitimate email addresses (which often end in ‘ac.uk’).

While it was great to see a number of universities and student unions share our phishing advice in response, we are concerned that another wave of email scams – which offer fake tax refunds – could occur from the start of this new academic year. New university students who may have had little or no interaction with the tax system might as a result be more likely to be taken in.

As I’m sure you will agree, university should be a time for students to learn, meet lifetime friends and to lay foundations for their careers. This is why we are asking each university to join us again in raising awareness of HMRC scams as early as possible in this academic year, and encouraging university leaders to ensure phishing advice is integrated into their guidance for new students if not done so already, to help prevent potential financial loss.

I have copied to this letter HMRC’s phishing advice for avoiding tax scams, including links to examples of current scams that we are of. Students should also be very alert to other scams, such as those by fraudsters pretending to be the TV licensing authority and also the DVLA.

Thank you in advance.

Mike Fell, Head of Cyber Operations at HM Revenue and Customs

HMRC’s advice for students

How can you spot a scam?

  1. Recognise the signs – genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details.
  2. Stay safe – don’t give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting.
  3. Take action – forward all suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599.
  4. Check GOV.UK for information on how to avoid and report scams and to recognise genuine HMRC contact.
  5. If you think you have received an HMRC related phishing/bogus email or text message, you can check it against the examples shown in this guide.
  6. Contact your bank immediately if you believe you’ve submitted card details to a scammer and report to Action Fraud if you suffer financial loss.

HMRC action tackling scams

  • HMRC introduced breakthrough controls in April 2019 which put an end to fraudsters being able to spoof HMRC helpline numbers.
  • In the last year, HMRC identified 3,441 phishing scams before they were reported thanks to proactive intelligence work. During the same period, HMRC requested the takedown of 12,366 malicious websites linked to phishing scams.
  • From June 2019, callers paying tax or debts over the phone to HMRC will enter their payment details via their telephone keypad instead of supplying this verbally over the phone. The operator will remain on the call throughout while the card details are processed via the system but will not be privy to the customer’s secure information.
  • HMRC has deployed technical controls since 2016 that have so far stopped around half a billion phishing emails from ever reaching our customers' inboxes and reduced reported instances of HMRC-branded phone text scams by 90%.

By HMRC

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