Scams targeting students
Fraudsters and hackers sometimes target students.
Fraudsters impersonating the University
Some Universities in the UK have been targeted by fraudsters. The criminals send bogus, but authentic-looking letters and emails to students and organisations that might owe the Universities money. The bogus letters claim that the Universities’ bank details have changed and instruct debtors to transfer any outstanding debts to a different bank account.
There are no reports that the same is happening to students at our University. However, as a precaution, the University would like to be very clear that the bank details of the University of Glamorgan have not changed.
Should you receive any letter or email that claims to be from the University and deals with financial issues, outstanding debts or University bank details, you can
- contact a Cash Office or email firstname.lastname@example.org. They will be able to verify whether any communication is genuine.
- if you receive any email or letter about a supposed change of bank account details of the University, please report an attempted fraud to the police and let the University know so that we can send an update to students to warn them.
Scam / spam emails in your student email accounts
Your university email address is not immune to spam. While Google offers fairly good junk mail filters, every now and again a spam email will come through. Please be vigilant:
- Any email asking you to send account details and password to resolve a problem, even if it pretends to be from a University helpdesk or IT team, is certain to be a phishing scam. Read the How to Deal With Phishing Emails page for more information.
- When you apply for jobs, keep track of which companies you have applied to. If you receive emails with job offers, make sure it’s from a company that you have contacted in the first place. Do not fill in your bank details unless you are certain that the offer is genuine!
- If you get an email claiming to be from your bank, with some urgent request for you to do something (typically by clicking on a link), it’s almost certainly fraud. If in doubt, look up your bank’s phone number (not via the email!) and ring them to check whether there is any issue.
- If you receive an email telling you you’ve won a sweepstake or lottery, assume it’s fraud unless you have actually entered the sweepstake or lottery in question.
- If someone emails you about using your bank account to transfer millions of dollars elsewhere, for a small commission, don’t fall for it.
- If you receive an email from a friend’s address which sounds oddly bland and mainly includes a link, it’s possible that their email account has been compromised. Send them a text message to ask if they have emailed you before you click on a link – it might infect your computer.
- Have a look at the Common Online Scams page, provided by the US Federal Government.
Phishing scams impersonating the Student Loans Company
Students regularly receive emails (including emails to their University email accounts) by scammers and spammers. The scammers frequently alter subject lines and message texts to make them convincing.
Please always be cautious about emails that ask you to open attachments or follow links, especially if the email sounds urgent.
The Student Loans Company’s top two messages to students are:
- They will never ask you to update your bank details by email
- They will never ask you to verify your student account details by email
Ignore messages that tell you to ‘validate your account’ or provide any personal, security or banking details as the Student Loans Company will never ask you to confirm your information in this way.
The Student Loans Company’s phishing guide, top tips and details on what to do if you receive a suspicious email can be found at their Online Security page.
Student Loans Company’s Top Five Tips to Avoid Phishing:
- Be suspicious of any urgent requests for personal or financial information.
- Be aware: Phishing scams are common around the three main instalment payment dates in September, January and April.
- Always ensure that you’re using a secure web site when submitting credit card or other sensitive information; look out for “https://” and/or the security lock.
- Prevention: Your email details may have been taken from a social networking site so avoid disclosing your email address or make sure you hide it on your page.
- Check the quality of the communication. Misspelling, poor punctuation and bad grammar are often tell-tale signs of phishing.
The Student Loans Company will:
- Never ask to update your bank details
- Never ask you to verify your account details
- Never ask you to click a link, always type the address yourself: www.direct.gov.uk/studentfinance
- Never ask you to answer combinations on the same screen i.e Your Customer Reference Number and Password on the same screen
- Never provide you with a choice of secret questions. We will only ever ask you the question you gave us.
- Never ask you to update items such as date of birth or provide your email address password.
The Company has partnered with ‘Get Safe Online’ to produce a phishing guide and top tips to promote online student safety and protection against scam emails.
White van scam
One of the oldest (and most frequently repeated) scams targeting students is the so-called white van speaker scam. It involves people with a van or commercial vehicle (of any colour, often with a logo) selling electronic goods, supposedly at a huge discount, direct to passers-by. These scams will often target residential areas where lots of students live. The products being sold are often manufactured especially for the scam, and of very poor quality.
Scams impersonating the UK Border Agency
International students in the UK have been targeted by a telephone scam. There have been reports of this scam being attempted in July 2012 and January 2013. The phone caller would impersonate the UKBA, claim there was a problem with a pending application or a current visa, and ask students for credit card details to pay a fine. See the telephone scam targeting international students news item for more information.
Scams involving a money transfer “job”
Several students have been victims in a particular sort of money laundering scam. Often these scams look like normal jobs, and are sometimes advertised on official job search websites.
Adverts offer positions such as ’mystery shopper’ – though it is possible that other job titles could also be used. When a student responds to the advert they are asked to give personal details and are then sent a letter containing American Express travellers cheques. The student is directed to deposit the travellers cheques into their bank account and, once cleared, to take a proportion as payment and transfer the rest of the deposit abroad.
To date, all the travellers cheques received through this scam have been counterfeit and this appears to be an elaborate way to launder the counterfeit travellers cheques via personal bank accounts.
There is a variation of this scam not involving travellers cheques, where stolen or illicitly obtained money is transferred directly into your account and your are asked to transfer it to another person so that the trail is harder for the police to follow.
This process is illegal in the UK and can carry severe penalties.
Even if you did not know this was a scam the police can still charge you and penalties can still be applied to you.
In most cases your UK bank account will be closed and you will also not be able to open another one as there will be a fraud notice on your financial record. Your bank would also be required by law to report any suspicious of money laundering or illegal transfer to the police.
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