UKCISA have some further useful advice on frauds and scams, and how you can protect yourself.
A student’s toolkit to help reduce the chances of falling victim to scammers has been created by Trading Standards South West. It’s full of hints and tips on everything from dating to rental scams, student finance cons and more.
Which? University have compiled a list of common student scams that you should be aware of.
The Don't Be Fooled website provides tips and advice about money transfers and avoiding money laundering.
Fraud, tricks and scams
Fraud, tricks and scams
Unfortunately, some criminals try to get money from students, particularly our international students. Some of these scams will seem very convincing and persuasive and it can be frightening.
- Don’t give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them.
- Be very cautious of unsolicited offers of easy money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Research any company that makes you a job offer and make sure their contact details (address, landline phone number, email address and website) are genuine.
- Be wary of job offers from people or companies overseas as it will be harder for you to find out if they are legitimate.
- Be wary of ads that are written in poor English, with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
If you’re contacted by someone and it seems unusual, unexpected or just odd, please end the call/communication. You should then contact us so we can offer you advice on what to do next. If the person who contacted you is genuine they won’t mind you checking this and then getting back to them.
- Report it to the Police. If you believe you have been involved in a scam, immediately inform the Police by calling 101. You should also report the incident to Action Fraud.
- Call your bank. If money is involved, you should call your bank/credit card provider who may be able to freeze transactions or else advise you on the next steps.
- If you've been left without enough money to live on, you can submit an application to the Success for All Fund.
- An experience like this can be stressful and leave students feeling vulnerable, the Wellbeing team are available to speak to and can be contacted via their webpage.
- If you feel the experience has impacted on your studies, speak with the Welfare team in your Hub for advice.
- The Guild Advice Unit offers free impartial and confidential advice to students. See here for details.
Examples of recent events
Examples of recent scams that have targeted our students by nationality:
- A student receives a 'warning' email from what appears to be the Chinese Students and Scholars Association in the UK. The email asks the student to contact them via WeChat to discuss an 'academic integrity' issue.
- A Chinese student received a call from what appeared to be a Chinese phone company. The student was told that a phone number in their name (that the student did not recognise) had been involved in a phone scam. The caller appeared to help them cancel the phone number and told them that they should report this to the police, they said that as the student was in the UK they would transfer them to the police themselves. The student talked to someone claiming to be the police and as requested by them provided a scan of their passport after which the call was abruptly ended.
- An international student received a hoax call from someone claiming to be from the Home Office who made threats including accusing the student of being involved in criminal activity, threatened deportation, having their qualifications nullified and accused the student of failing to register with a false scheme called the 'Alien Unique Identity Number'.
- Chinese students received phone calls from a person claiming to be from the Assembly of China, accusing them of money laundering crimes. The students were asked for personal details of their bank accounts. It appears to be a very sophisticated scam; the student is given a case ID number and given a website to access. When they enter the case ID into the site they’ll be shown an authentic-looking (fake) case that’s supposedly from the highest court in China alongside their own photograph from National ID card. Funds are then taken from their bank account.
- A student gave away their email login details through responding to a phishing email. A few months later, their email account had been hijacked and the hijacker impersonated the University to request the student pay tuition fee deposits.
- Committee members of a student society have been targeted with threatening Whatsapp messages.
If you receive an unexpected contact from someone who claims to be from the Home Office, it may be a scam. Do not respond to emails, and end any calls. Contact us as we can check with UKVI if this is geniune, or a scam.
UKVI recently released some guidance for students:
- Legitimate Home Office officials will never contact you and ask you to pay visa fees or fines over the phone.
- Home Office or UKVI officials will never ask you to pay visa fees or fines using iTunes gift cards, cryptocurrency or money transfer services. Never provide the numbers on the back of iTunes Gift Cards to someone you don't know.
- Always question unexpected requests for your personal or financial information in case it’s a scam. Even if someone knows your basic details, it doesn’t mean they are genuine.
- Trusted organisations won't pressure you to make a financial transaction on the spot. If something feels wrong, question it.
Fraudsters will say anything to make you think they are genuine callers. This can include telling you they are calling from the police or other authority. If you’re contacted by someone and it seems unusual, unexpected or just odd, please end the call/communication. You should then contact us who can offer you advice on what to do next. If the person who contacted you is genuine they won’t mind you checking this and then getting back to them.
We’ve had cases of criminals befriending students online only to persuade them to stream themselves naked via a webcam, or take nude photos and share them. The scammers then demand money or say they will share the images with the person’s contacts. Be careful and never send images or stream yourself naked, to someone you’ve not met in person before.
If you are sent images because you’re a contact of someone this has happened to, please delete them and don’t share them.
You can also speak to our Estate Patrol team who can help you to report this crime, if you feel able to. They’re available 24/7, 365 days of the year and you can find their contact details here.
- You may receive a letter, email, text message or a phone call which claims to be from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) which tells you about a tax rebate or penalty and asks for your personal or payment information.
If you think you've given some personal information away in response to an HMRC phishing scam, you can report the disclosure of information to the HMRC security team.
- You may receive a letter, email, text message or a phone call which claims to be from a company such as DHL which claims that you own money for unpaid VAT (value added tax).
As well as the Police, you should report the fraud directly to the relevant company. For example, DHL.
Fraudsters might know your personal details, including your BRP or passport number, your date of birth and your address. This does not necessarily mean they are genuine. You should always end the call and contact us for help.
Some fraudsters are very clever at making themselves look genuine. They might ask you to call them back on a certain number, or their number or email address might look genuine. They might ask you to check their contact details against a website, and it will match. This does not mean the caller is genuine. You should still end the call and seek our help to check the authenticity of the contact.
Don't be a money mule
You may be asked to receive money into your bank account and transfer it into another account, keeping some of the cash for yourself. Even if the request comes from someone you know, be cautious. This could happen online or in person. For example, the fraudsters might post what looks like a genuine job advert, then ask for your bank details.
Fraudsters use this method, called money laundering, to fund criminal activities. Money laundering is a crime with serious consequences.
If you are concerned that you may have been targeted, you should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or at crimestoppers-uk.org. This number is free, and you can report your concerns in complete confidence. You do not have to give your name.
Some people have reported receiving suspicious emails, text messages or phone calls claiming to be from the NHS about receiving the Covid-19 vaccine. These lead to requests for personal and/or financial information. Remember that the Covid-19 vaccine is free of charge. The NHS would never ask you for your bank or payment card details, or your PIN or online banking password. The NHS would never arrive unexpectedly at your address to administer the vaccine, and would never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of your personal documents like your passport or BRP.
You can learn more about Covid-19 vaccine scams and how to report them on the Action Fraud website.