• Tax Refunds: How to spot a scammer Nov 25, 2019
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    HMRC have recently issued a fresh warning about a new kind of scam that’s been circulating the internet. Although it’s been around for a while under different guises, instead of getting more sophisticated, the targets have become more gullible.

    Yes that’s right, poor little Freshers have been targeted by scammers with promises of juicy tax returns by HMRC. I myself received a few of these way back when, and even though I consider myself somewhat street-smart (especially when it comes to the World Wide Web), even I was nearly fooled by how convincing they were.

    The official looking email informs the recipient that they are due a tax refund, usually between £300-£400 (enough to make you excited) and asks you to log in via a link provided and enter some details to get your refund. While this would set off a million red flags and alarm bells for us more cynical, world-weary folk, it is the ultimate trap for naive (and notoriously broke) students who don’t even know how a washing machine works, never mind a tax refund! And it doesn’t even matter that they've never actually had a job, free money is free money baby!

    Well, for those unlucky enough to be caught out by this scam, not only will your data be stolen along with your hard earned cash (however little you have), but the scammer also has the potential to ruin your credit rating by opening up bogus accounts with your stolen information. But don’t worry kids, I am here to make sure you don’t get mugged off (I’m so down with the lingo) with these top tips to spot a scam.

    1) Check the email address

    One of the most convincing parts of scam emails to the untrained eye is legit looking email addresses. In the recent cases, email addresses ended in “ac.uk” which look official, but a quick click on the email address will reveal the true email address that will have a million characters and looks as dodgy as a guy with a trench coat and bare legs wandering around a park.

    2) Look for the tax reference number

    If HMRC do contact you, they will always include your tax reference number. Look at any potential correspondence carefully and if this is missing then set it on fire and throw it in the bin.

    3) Don’t give out personal information

    I know we are the generation of oversharing. No one - not a single person - cares what I had for breakfast on January 17th of 2015 but hey, it’s there online for everyone to see. But if someone did ask, it would be weird. It’s the same for your personal data. Rule #1 of the internet is ‘Stranger Danger’ and while an app may ask to share your location (which is a whole other rant), official organisations will never ask you to share personal data. Put on your GDPR hat and shut it down.

    4) If in doubt, rat them out

    If something seems fishy then report it to phishing. Forward any suspicious emails to [email protected]. They will look into it for you and get back to you about the email’s legitimacy.

    So in summary, don’t be a wally. If it’s too good to be true then it usually is. Save your student loans and pocket money for nights out and lectures that you won’t remember.

    Written by Aoibheann Byrne | BrightPay Payroll Software
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