You should always be extra vigilant when being asked to disclose any personal or financial information and should only ever share information with trusted sources, in a secure manner. You should never make an additional payment on the phone or disclose personal details. A legitimate organisation (UK or overseas) will always allow you time to seek advice before you respond. Fraudsters are known to take advantage of new students at the start of term and particularly if English is not your first language. Their techniques may be quite sophisticated and they may already have personal information about you, or the contact details they provide may appear genuine.
Common examples of fraudulent activity can be emails, text messages or phone calls suggesting you are due a tax refund, or have not made a payment for a visa matter or your loan or scholarship payment is delayed. Check the details of the sender carefully and be wary of any approach made unexpectedly. Large organisations such as HMRC will often have fraud alerts listed on their webpages as an additional check.
Do not feel pressurised by an immediate deadline, for what may be a scam which could include a request for payment, a request to disclose personal details, or a false accusation that you have committed a crime or broken a regulation. You must end the conversation immediately and seek advice either from your college, department or the relevant central team at the University. You can contact them with the email subject title ‘potential fraud’ to gain their immediate attention. For visa or immigration matters contact email@example.com, for fees or loans contact firstname.lastname@example.org and for any other matters, approach your college.
Fraudsters may be looking to obtain your personal details to steal information and potentially take money from you, this is known as phishing. For further guidance on avoiding phishing scams, you can also visit the University’s Information security webpages. Students in receipt of UK Government support who are concerned about being targeted by phishing scams can also access specific advice from the Student Loans Company webpages.
Alternatively, fraudsters may ask you to receive money into your bank account and transfer it into another account, keeping some of the cash for yourself. If you let this happen, this is classed as money laundering which is a serious crime. Criminals use such "money mules" to launder their money - if you become one it can be difficult to stop as criminals may threaten you if you don't continue.
Never open a bank account in your name for somebody else to use, or allow your account to be used to send and receive funds for others. If you are worried that you have been approached by someone wanting you to become a money mule you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously at 0800 555 111.
UK Finance's Take Five website offers further guidance on how to avoid unwittingly becoming involved in scams.