“Tax Refund” Email Scam Targeting University Students: What to Watch For


An email scam claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is targeting local college and university students. The scam hit many University of Waterloo students yesterday with a fraudulent claim that recipients were eligible for a tax refund. The scam encouraged students to submit personal information to receive the refund. CTV News covered the story on Thursday.

While there are no reports yet that University of Guelph students have been targeted, the incident serves as a reminder to be alert to email and text scams.

How to spot this scam

The fraudulent email tells recipients that CRA is attempting to send them a refund for overpaid taxes from 2019 via an INTERAC e-transfer.  Recipients must start a “claim” to receive a refund for $550.44. To submit the “claim”, victims must input personal and banking information by Jan. 15. By doing so, recipients give criminals access to this sensitive information that can be used for future fraud.

When to be suspicious

You can protect yourself from online scams by watching for these warning signs:

  • The message includes an offer of money (e.g., via a refund, easy job, etc.)
  • The message contains spelling or grammar errors (like “refiund” in the CRA email scam)
  • The message is an urgent request or has a short timeline for action
  • The offers seems to good to be true (like free money)

What to do if you’ve been targeted

If you think you have received a phishing scam, do not respond to the message or open any links. You can check the CCS Recent Scams and Phishing Attempts page to see if the scam has been posted. If it has not, please forward the message to the CCS IT Help Centre at IThelp@uoguelph.ca.

You can read more about how to recognize phishing attempts on the CCS website.