Be Aware of Frauds And Scams
Students can be particularly vulnerable to financial crime, especially those experiencing life away from home and from the guidance of parents for the first time. To help keep you safe, please see below some examples of some of the most common scams and areas of risk affecting students.
Fee Payment Scams
One fraud is particularly targeting overseas student’s tuition fees. Criminals may present themselves as a government agency and request payment for an “International student tariff, in some cases even threatening to revoke a student’s visa if the payment is not made. In other cases, fraudsters may create a fake email which appears to be from a genuine UK university, requesting payment for fees or informing a student of a change in bank account details to pay fees.
To avoid these types of scam, students should:
- Be wary of anyone who offers to make a tuition payment on your behalf.
- Avoid companies advertising tuition payment services that are not endorsed by the institution
- Look for warning signs that an agent is not legitimate, such as requests for large upfront payment, offers to create false documents, refusal to provide references or charging fees for services that an educational institution provides for free, for example accommodation support.
Not share personal, banking or financial information with anyone who lacks the verifiable relationship with the relevant institution.
The “Money Mule” trap involves students being offered payment in exchange for receiving money temporarily into their bank account. They will then be asked to withdraw the cash to hand over or transfer it on. This type of scam is on the increase, targeting student who are short of cash and may be tempted by offers to make “easy money” on job search or social media websites. Allowing their bank account to be used in this way is illegal and could result in a criminal record or even a prison sentence. Students caught up in money muling are also likely to have problems opening a new bank account or obtaining credit in the future.
Advice to students to help avoid involvement in money muling:
- Being wary of unsolicited offers to make “easy money”.
- Researching companies offering such “job” opportunities and making sure their contact details are genuine
- Being especially cautious of “job offers” form overseas as it will be harder to check whether they are legitimate
Rented accommodation is another area where criminals can take advantage of students. Typically, fraudsters might advertise a property that belongs to someone else – or even a property that doesn’t exist at all. They may make excuses as to why the student can’t view the property but insist on rent or a deposit up front, promising to forward keys via a courier service, which then never arrive.
To avoid falling victim to this kind of scam, you should:
- Only use reputable high street rental agents and always view a property inside and out before entering into any agreement or parting with any money
- Ask to see legally required document such as energy performance and gas safety certificates
- Check that the rent is typical of properties in the area – if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Student should be aware that their personal data can be at risk through the use of smartphones, laptops and other digital devices connected to the internet, whether for study or social activity. This exposes them to the threat of fraud and scams. The risk is increased if you use free Wi-Fi, for example in cafes or public spaces, where any security weakness in the Wi-Fi network could be exploited by criminals to intercept data.
Phishing and Vishing
Student are often targets for both phishing (emails) and vishing (phone calls), with fraudsters often posing as their bank or some other official body. A Typical phone scam might involve a fraudster calling about a refund or problem with a payment card. They may ask the student to confirm their security or bank account details, supposedly to resolve the issue, and they sue these details to take payment from the students account. Another common scenario is fake technical support impersonators claiming they have detected a fault with a student’s laptop computer and seeking remote access to fix the problem. They may suggest the student needs to buy a piece of software straightaway to solve the problem. Such calls are unlikely to legitimate, so if you are unsure of the caller’s creditability, then you should hang up.
Online Shopping Scams
The popularity of booking tickets, getting student discounts form restaurants or buying course books online makes it easier for fraudsters to advertise fake products or services that may never arrive once the student has paid.
Tips to help students avoid this type of scam include:
- Taking card to research a private seller or even a legitimate-looking brand, for example by reviewing other customer’s feedback.
- Never opening a link in an unexpected email.
- Checking URLs or email addresses of unsolicited emails, including the spelling, to make sure they are genuine. Insisting on viewing high-value items like vehicles in person before paying.
- Using secure payment methods rather than direct bank transfers.
You are called by someone claiming to be from a government department or agency working on their behalf. They inform you that you have not paid a fee which you need to pay now to avoid prosecution, examples have been immigration tax (which does not exist), visa tax or a health fee. Quite quickly their language is threatening, warning that if you do not pay a fine over the phone you will be arrested, have your visa cancelled or face further financial penalties. They will try to keep you on the phone and reconfirm their credentials by referencing official bodies such as the Home Office and the Royal Courts of Justice.
This is a scam, in the rare situation where someone may be fined by the UK Government this will be done so in an official capacity in writing, where you would call in and pay over the phone and to appeal the fine. Even if the scammer claims to be from your home country it is very unlikely that any official government agency would contact you in this manner and request payment over the phone.
You should refuse to pay but offer to take their information to look into the matter and call back. If they refuse to give this to you then you know that they are a scammer and should hang up and block their number. If they do give you information provide this to Action Fraud when you contact them for advice about the call. No official agency would refuse to provide you with full details of who they are, why you are being contacted and how to check the legitimacy of their claim as well as how to appeal a decision.
While there are many different scamming methods and ploys there are a few tell-tale signs. It’s also worth knowing how to avoid falling victims to phishing scams, which are often quite sophisticated emails that look like they are from legitimate companies.
- You are contacted out of the blue
- A deal that sounds too good to be true
- You are asked for personal details
- You are asked to make an immediate decision
- Obvious grammatical or spelling mistakes
- You are asked to keep something secret
- No contact details are given to you or at best just a mobile phone or PO Box address.
International students may be more vulnerable as they can be targeted in particular.
The University strongly advises students, specifically international students, watch the below video which highlights how students can be targeted.
Online Fraud - Additional Information
Find out more about the type of scams that have affected University students in the UK through the following resource
Are you a student wanting to make easy cash please watch this short video Crooks on Campus first