Unfortunately, there are people who make a living by tricking others out of money. Students are often targeted but you can learn to recognise scams and protect yourself against them.
Scammers are getting smarter and more creative and scams are getting more complex. Some scammers access social media accounts to learn personal details about you so that they seem more legitimate when they contact you.
Anyone could be targeted by scammers, so it’s important that all students read this advice. Student-specific scams that we know of include:
Fake tax refunds from HMRC
A text message or email from HMRC advises you are due a tax refund and you need to provide your personal details.
Student Loans Company phishing scam
Students get an email from what appears to be the Student Loans Company asking for their bank details.
Reports indicate that £22 million has been lost to rental fraud in the last four years. Students looking for property are asked to pay a fee in advance without viewing the property. It transpires the property doesn’t exist.
Money laundering or money mules
Experts say thousands of students are at risk of becoming embroiled in bank transfer fraud, Britain’s fastest growing crime.
If you are an international student, scammers may think you are an easy target because you are a long way from home, family and friends. You may be unfamiliar with local laws or not know where to go for help and advice. There are some scams that specifically target international students.
The ‘virtual kidnapping’ scam
This is a particularly nasty scam where a student is contacted by someone pretending to be from the Embassy of their home country who tells them they are implicated in a serious crime. They are persuaded not to tell anyone and to cut off all contact with their family and ‘kidnap’ themselves. Money is then extorted from the family as well as from the student.
UK Visa / fake Home Office / fake Police scam
Fake police or Home Office officials contact the student and tell them they did not complete the correct paperwork on entry into the country and that they must pay a fine or be deported. Other scams involve callers pretending to be the Police and demanding students pay taxes, quoting HMRC and the courts.
A similar scam sees students receiving a SIM card before leaving their home country, or in a UK welcome pack. Once the SIM is activated, the student receives phone calls claiming that they need to return to their home country due to criminal activity in their bank accounts and must follow specific instructions to return. Some scammers may persuade students that they are talking to Law Enforcement officials, or direct them to fake websites which show an extradition page with their pictures and details on it.
Tuition payment scams
Students are contacted and offered discounts or ‘help’ to pay their tuition fees. They may be told they can have a bursary if they supply their bank details.
Foreign exchange scams
Students looking for favourable exchange rates may unwittingly be laundering money and may also end up losing their money.
There are many different scamming methods but, generally, look out for these tell-tale signs (from TheUniGuide):
The Metropolitan Police have information about online fraud and cybercrime.
You can read more about Top student scams: spot and stop them on the Which University website.
UKCISA has produced information about frauds and scams for international students.