University students targeted in tax refund scam

Stock photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

A large number of Queen's University Belfast students have been targeted in a tax refund scam.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said that students across the UK were being targeted by scammers with fake tax refunds in an attempt to steal money and person details.

HMRC confirmed that a large number of scams had been reported involving students at Queen's.

The scammers are using seemingly legitimate university email addresses (for example ‘’) in order to avoid detection.

HMRC said that it was the largest direct attack on students it had ever seen with thousands of fraud attempts reported in the past few weeks.

Often HMRC related email scams spoof the branding of GOV.UK and well known credit cards in attempt to look authentic. The recipient’s name and email address may be included several times within the email itself.

Fraudulent emails and texts will regularly include links which take students to websites where their information can be stolen. Between April and September this year, HMRC requested that 7,500 of these phishing sites be deactivated. This compares to around 5,200 requests during the same period in 2017.

Sinn Fein further and higher education spokesperson Caoimhe Archibald said that the scams were of growing concern.

"Attempted telephone and online scams are an ongoing and increasing problem, with the scammers always attempting to devise more sophisticated and plausible ways to try and secure your personal computing and online banking details," the East Londonderry MLA said.

“I would urge people to be constantly vigilant and to make sure to warn elderly family members in particular to the wide variety of attempted cold call scams that are going on.“

Director of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith urged students to remain vigilant.

“Devious fraudsters will try every trick in the book to convince victims to hand over their personal information, often with devastating consequences. It is vital that students spot the signs of fraudulent emails to avoid falling victim by following HMRC’s advice," she said.

“Together with HMRC, we work tirelessly to stop fraudsters in their tracks and to prevent unsuspecting members of the public from falling victim to fraud.”