What is a scam?

Unfortunately, as students, you may find yourself being targeted by scams trying to steal your money, personal information or data.

Where might scams happen?

Scams can occur via telephone, email, text message, physical visits to your house, post, online or via social media.

This might be targeted at your personal accounts or your university accounts.

How can I spot a scam?

The goal with scams is to make it as least obvious possible. They are getting more sophisticated and harder to spot.

Our top tips of things to be suspicious of:

  • If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If you’re contacted by someone you don’t know asking for your bank details or personal information (like passwords or PINs).
  • If you’re being emailed from a suspicious email address – the email addresses will likely be filled with random letters, numbers or punctuation.
  • If there is a sense of urgency to hand over money or something else.
  • You've been asked to pay in an unusual way like paying your tuition fees via an intermediary (“middle-man”) rather than directly to the university.
  • You haven't had written confirmation of what's been agreed.
  • Not personalised or directly addressed to you (Dear Sir/ Madam, Hi, Hello etc.).
  • Bank emails or texts not including your Account or Customer Service Numbers.

Follow Take 5 To Stop Fraud Advice on how to identify a scam and avoid becoming victim to fraud.

  • STOP – Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information.
  • CHALLENGE – Could it be fake? It is ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Legitimate organisations will not rush you or try to cause panic.
  • PROTECT – Contact your bank immediately if you think you have fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.

What can I do to protect myself against scams?

An extra layer of security to ensure the identity of the individual logging into an account. Following entering your username and password, there will be an additional level of security (such as a pin, receiving a text with a one-time passcode, or perhaps even a biometric check such as a fingerprint scan). This means that you are ensuring that any accounts are extra secure and that you are taking extra steps to ensure the protection of your personal information.

On social media, for example, you can control what information is visible to the public and what you choose to keep private. For example, do you need to have your location and date of birth on your Facebook account, or does having this information open you up to the risk of being scammed? We recommend that you limit the personal details that you share to minimise your chances of being targeted by scammers.

Regularly update your passwords and ensure that you do not use the same password for all of your accounts. Follow Microsoft’s guidance on how to create a strong password.

This includes your bank account which you should frequently check to ensure there has not been any unexpected transactions, as well as any other account to check that all of the information is as you left it.

What are some common scams aimed at students?

With loans generally due in September, January and April, you need to be vigilant in paying attention to potential student loans scams. These may come via text, email or phone calls. They will generally ask you to input details to release your student loan (this is never something that you will have to do - the money is transferred directly to your account and you will receive a text notification when you can expect this to happen).

Read the Student Loans Company’s advice on how to spot a Student Loans scam.

You will receive a message, generally through WhatsApp, where an agency will offer for you to pay your fees through them and to receive a significant discount (20%-30%) as well as the option of paying them in instalments. They will pay your fees using a stolen credit card and provide you with proof that your fees have been paid. They will then ask you to transfer your tuition fees to them. After some time, which we have seen be up to 3 months, the people posing as agents report the payments as unauthorised transactions using stolen credit cards, and the fees will be charged back. You will lose the money that you paid to the agency scammers and have to pay your fees again or else you are at risk of being tuition fee blocked or excluded.

Where possible, pay your fees directly to the University yourself via Convera. Try to do this as far in advance as possible of the fee payment deadline to avoid late payment of fees due to issues with transactions. You can find the University’s guidance on paying your Tuition Fees here and our webpage on tuition fees here.

Particularly on social media, you may see advertisements of many unofficial social events happening during welcome (Freshers), or even approached in-person on campus and asked if you want to but Freshers passes/ tickets. You will buy these tickets and passes, get yourself ready to head to an event, and arrive to realise it doesn’t exist.

Protect yourself and only buy official welcome passes. You can also find a list of all of the events happening during Welcome on Your Students’ Union website (most of which are free).

You will receive a text or call from a scammer pretending to be your bank asking that you provide details such as your account number, sort code, address, name, card pin or other personal details in order to “activate” your new student bank account and bank card. They will then use these details to access your bank account and steal your money.

Your bank will never contact you and ask for you to clarify your details via the phone, email or text, or ask you to click a link. Never share these details with anyone over the phone, via email or online.

Scammers pretending to be Ofgem are contacting students via email saying that they are eligible for a rent rebate payment as part of a government scheme. It will provide a link to an external website to “claim the rebate” which is actually designed to steal your personal information and bank account details.

Ofgem, or any other organisation, will never contact you via email and ask you to provide personal information via email or to visit a non-official website.

You will be asked to use your student bank account to store stolen money and then asked to withdraw and send the money to a different account (which is often overseas). The scammers will allow you to keep some money for yourselves. This commonly happens via social media, WhatsApp or in person.

The money was illegally obtained and you would become involved in money laundering. This means you could be prosecuted and disciplined according to university regulations and the law, regardless of whether you were aware that the money you were transferring was illegal.

You will be asked to pay a deposit/ rent quickly to secure a property without having opportunity to view it, then later find out that the property does not exist. Never pay money for a property that you have not viewed either in-person or via a live video call.

Scammers will frequently advertise for “quick ways to make money” on social media (particularly on fake University groups). You will end up providing bank details and may even directly send money to the scammers on the promise of better-quality work.

Only ever look for work on reputable websites such as Indeed, LinkedIn and Reed or directly from company websites. Always do research on a place of work before applying for a job, and never send them money – they should be paying you!

This is when a criminal will send scam emails, text messages or phone calls often asking you to visit a website or to click a link. This may then download a virus onto your computer giving the criminal access to all of your files, steal any bank details that you input, or steal other personal information from you that you input.

Never follow a link or visit a webpage without verifying who it has been sent from. You may also wish to add an add-on to your browser to detect scam webpages and block them from opening – such as Malwarebytes Browser Guard.

Scammers will call and pretend to be a computer technician from well-known companies such as Microsoft or Apple. They will inform you that they have found a fault on your device and will ask you to give them remote access to your desktop so that they can run diagnostic tests. They will then lock you out of your desktop and demand money, often in the form of gift cards, in return for giving you access back to your device.

Do not provide remote access to your device to any company which you have not not verified is official and have not first contacted yourself.

A phishing attack where you will receive emails where a criminal will attempt to blackmail you by claiming that they have your login details or a video of you visiting an adult website and will share this information unless you pay a ransom. It may include a password that you have used or that you currently use, as well as technical sounding details, to make it more convincing.

They do not know if you have visited adult websites, if you have a webcam, and do not have any videos of you. They are attempting to scare you into acting quickly and in making payments.

What do I do if I have been scammed?

If you feel threatened in any way you should call 999 immediately. Keep a record of what's happened so you can report it. You can also find out more here.

Sometimes scammers might steal your passwords or financial information. You should immediately reset your passwords if you suspect these have been stolen. If you think your account details or PIN have been stolen you need to contact your bank immediately to stop your account being used. Pay close attention to your statements to see if there are unusual transactions.

You should contact your bank immediately if there is a payment from your bank account you don’t recognise – an 'unauthorised transaction' or if you have used your debit card and more money was taken than you expected.

If you transferred money to the scammer in the last 24 hours you should inform the police as soon as possible by calling 101.

If you have given or lost money to a scammer, you can visit the Citizens Advice website to “Check If You can Get Your Money Back After A Scam”.

How can I report a scam?

Report any scam to Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre. You can make a report online and receive updates on the action being taken. If you are D/deaf or hard of hearing you can contact Action Fraud on textphone 0300 123 2050.

If you receive a scam email, forward it to report@phishing.gov.uk. It will go to the National Cyber Security Centre who will work to stop anyone else being scammed.

If you believe you may have found a scam, need advice about scams, or would like to report a scam, you can do this by contacting the Citizens Advice consumer helpline, using their online form, or by talking to an online adviser. You can report an online scam (social media, emails and websites – anything using the internet) and offline scams (such as telephone or doorstep scams).

You can also report a scam to Crimestoppers;

Crimestoppers are an independent charity that gives you the power to speak up to stop crime, 100% anonymously.

How can Your Advice Service help you?

If you are struggling financially as a result of being scammed and cannot afford essential living costs, please contact Your Students’ Union Advice Service for support. We will work with you to tell you how to report the scam if you haven’t already and what support may be available to you.

You can contact us by completing an Enquiry Form.

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