A scam is a method of conning someone out of their money. It can be done by post, phone, email, text or online. It can sometimes even happen when someone calls to your front door. They can be disguised as a purchase of goods, entering competitions and on occasions job offers. Money laundering is a scam that students can be particularly susceptible too.
What to look out for:
- It is sounds too good to be true it probably is
- Be suspicious of people contacting you out of the blue or from companies you haven’t heard of
- Be aware of pressuring messages “if you don’t act now you will miss this golden opportunity”
- Be suspicious of any banks or government agencies that contact you demanding your details especially online
- When shopping online, always try to use a credit card as they are protected for purchases over £50
- You are asked to send money in advance
- You are told you have to respond quickly or you will miss the offer
- You are told to keep it a secret
- Give a mobile number or PO Box number as the contact for their company- these are easy to close and difficult to trace.
- Check the email address – it may have a strange email address. Sometimes if it comes from a free provider such as Hotmail or Gmail, this could be a sign.
- Check for spelling errors and poor grammar. Legitimate emails and websites are less likely to have these
S – Seems too good to be true.
C – Contacted out of the blue.
A – Asked for personal details.
M – Money has been requested.
Some criminals have been targeting international students specifically, pretending to be from a legitimate organisation (such as the UK Home Office, and education agent or UKISA). They demand money- calling it a "fine" and that it must be paid immediately or there will be damaging consequences, such as deportation.
This scam follows a similar pattern to previous scams:
- A student receives a call from someone pretending to be from the Home Office
- The incoming number appears to match a genuine Home Office number
- The student is told that there is a problem with their visa and that they need to pay a fine and/or give the caller personal information and contact details
- Some students are also told that they will be visited by a Home Office official
- Please remember that the Home Office will never call an international student to request payments or ask for personal details in this way.
What if you think you’ve been scammed
Do not click on anything and leave the website. It may be a good idea to keep the email as this can act as proof or evidence should you report the scam.
If you think you have been scammed by someone pretending to be your bank, you can contact your bank directly to discuss this. They should provide a contact number on the back of your bank card or you can find the correct contact information for them by searching Google.
Fake Emails and Websites
Fake emails or scam emails are usually called ‘phishing’ emails. Often emails like this will include information asking you to buy something and provide your bank details and passwords.
These can often look legitimate as they can appear to be from real companies and banks. An important note to remember is that your bank will never ask you to confirm personal details by email or by clicking on a link.
Advice SU can help you with the financial issues concerning scams.
Students Beware! Are you at risk of becoming a money mule?
We are aware of a growing scam which seeks to recruit individuals, through illicit job adverts, to money-launder thousands of pounds to criminal gangs abroad – the proceeds of which fund an international trade in drugs, people trafficking and terrorism. People who get involved in this type of scam are commonly referred to as money mules. Research shows that these fraudsters are targeting students, especially international students.
The fake job offers, often made online using titles such as ‘Money Transfer Agent’ or ‘Payment Processing Agent’, turn participants into so-called ‘money mules’.
The recipient of the offer is invited to receive money into their bank account and transfer it to another account, retaining a proportion for themselves. In reality, the money received is stolen, often the result of fraud on accounts, and is then laundered to overseas bank accounts.
This activity is illegal and carries a number of consequences, including freezing of students’ bank accounts, difficulty in opening new accounts in the future (affecting graduates’ ability to get a job, to arrange a mortgage, to secure insurance etc.) and, in the worst cases, a prison sentence of up to ten years.
Click here to find out more about money laundering and money mules.
If you believe you have been the victim of any type of fraud you should contact Action Fraud to report the incident and/or seek further advice. We can also provide advice to any Queen's student who thinks they may have been the victim of fraud - just get in touch.
You can also find more information on scams and how to spot and avoid them at NI Direct.