In the last month, the students of many UK universities have been targeted with phishing emails. The UK’s tax authority, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), has warned that fraudsters are using fake tax refund emails to trick students into handing over their personal information.

Although institutions across the UK have been targeted, thousands of students have reported cases at particular universities, especially in the past three or four weeks.

HMRC said it was the first time it had seen a scam like this directly targeting university students in the UK on such a large scale.

It appears the criminals behind the scam are using email addresses that look like genuine email addresses to avoid detection.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride, said:

“If you receive one of these messages it is a scam. Do not click on any links in these messages, and forward them to HMRC’s phishing email address.”

He added:

“Although HMRC is cracking down hard on internet scams, criminals will stop at nothing to steal personal information. I’d encourage all students to become phishing-aware – it could save you a lot of money.”

HMRC emphasised that it would never use email, text or voicemail for refunds.

HMRC highlighted the following particular universities as ones that should raise awareness of the dangers. Universities include Aberdeen, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Imperial College London, King’s College London, Manchester Metropolitan, Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Queen Mary (London), Queen’s (Belfast), Southampton, Sussex, University College London, and Warwick.

It’s not known how many students have fallen for the scam or how much they have lost; however, HMRC believes cases are under-reported.

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