Your Advice Service

Common Scams Aimed at Students and How To Avoid Them

As students, you are more likely to be targeted by scammers trying to steal your money. We have collected information on the most common scams aimed at students and, most importantly, how you can avoid them.

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A photo of money and someone calculating money on a phone calculator and pad of paper A photo of money and someone calculating money on a phone calculator and pad of paper

Unfortunately, as students, you may find yourself being targeted by scams trying to steal your money, personal information or data. With the growing Cost of Living crisis and students often struggling to support themselves financially, you may become more vulnerable to scams targeted at you.

We are here to make sure that you are aware of how to identify scams, how to avoid being victim to one, and what to do if you encounter one or experience one.  

 

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 and they are getting more sophisticated and harder to spot. There are some key things to look for:

  • 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 (whether through a message, email, at your front door or through another channel).
  • 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 – for example, by iTunes vouchers or through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union.
  • You’ve been asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs.
  • 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 are Some Common Scams Aimed At Students?

Student Loans Company Phishing scams. When moving to university and with so much changing in your life, it is easy to be paying less attention to spotting scams. 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.

Card/ Bank Account Activation Scams. This is when you 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 pin number, account number, username or password, birthday address or to click or complete anything. Never share these details with anyone over the phone, via email or online.

Tuition Fee Fraud. It is common to target international students by offering discounts and exceptional currency rates for your tuition fees. This is most commonly targeted through messaging apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Telegram, text and email. Scammers will pay your tuition fees using stolen bank cards and then will ask you to pay them. When the card gets reported as stolen, the tuition fees paid will be returned to their owner and you will be left without your tuition fees paid and with no money to pay them.

These scams are illegal and getting involved in them could have legal repercussions, such as a criminal record, for yourself.

Fake Home Office/ UK Visa Scams. This most commonly comes through phone calls, emails and texts and targets international students specifically. Scammers will contact you to say that you have not completed the correct paperwork to remain in the country and must pay a fine to be able to remain in the UK. They may pretend to be the Home Office, the police or other law enforcement officials. The scammer will provide you with their bank account details and may even signpost you to a website to try and prove their authenticity.

The Home Office, UKCISA or police will never call you and ask to pay a fine to remain in the UK. Do not share any personal details, send any money or confirm that any information that they have about you is correct or incorrect.

Energy Rebate Scams. Scammers pretending to be Ofgem are contacting people 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.

Money Mules. 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 even, regardless of whether you were aware that the money you were transferring was illegal.

 

What Do I Do If I Have Been Scammed?

If you feel threatened in any way you should call 999 immediately. If the scammer contacts you by visiting your door, calls you, or sends you a message you should ignore them, but keep a record of what's happened so you can report it. 

Sometimes scams and 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 Do I Report A Scam?

If you believe that you are in immediate physical danger, you should contact the Police by calling 999.

You should always 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).

If the Scam is a Facebook ad in the UK, you can flag it as a scam or as providing misleading information by clicking on the three dots in the top right corner and clicking “Report ad”, “Misleading or scam ad” and “Send a detailed scam report”. Facebook will then investigate any reports and remove them if necessary.

If the scam relates to Immigration or Visas then you should contact the International Student Support Team at the University to make them aware so that they can prevent other students becoming victim to the scam.

 

What Support Can I Get From Your Advice Service?

If you have been scammed and are experiencing financial hardship, you may be eligible for financial support from the University via the University Support Fund. If you need any support with an application or would like to talk to an Advice Caseworker, please contact us to let us know by completing an enquiry form.

If you have been scammed and need support in escalating it or establishing your options, again please contact us to find out what support is available to you by completing an enquiry form.

Read our webpage on Scams and how to avoid them.  

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