Victim of Scams, Phishing and Identity Theft

Scams are a fact of life these days and made increasing common because of the internet. Students are just as likely to be targeted by scammers as any other group in society.

Read the text below for information about scams and identity fraud including common scams and how to spot them, what to do if you have been a victim and where you can get support.

Scams and Phishing

A scam is a criminal offence in which someone tries to steal something from you or defraud you. Letters, e-mails, telephone calls, social media accounts can all be used to try and trick you out of money and/or personal information.

Some common scams aimed at students include;

  • Phishing emails supposedly from Student Finance, HMRC, Home Office etc. There are many variations on this scam but they all involve being tricked into giving over your personal details. It’s not always e-mails, you could also receive SMS text messages or telephone calls asking you to click on a link or call a specific phone number. IT services have additional information about phishing e-mails and how to report any e-mails you are concerned about.
  • Social media scams. These are sometimes disguised as games but beware if they are asking for you to give your mother’s maiden name, make of your first car or your favourite food, this information is also regularly used by banks and other companies as security questions.
  • The ‘holiday help scam’. You are sent a message by a scammer which appears to be from a friend who tells you they are stranded abroad and need you to send them money urgently via a money transfer.
  • Properties advertised to rent through social media that are either unavailable or do not exist at all. It is always best to view a property before renting. See our information on house-hunting for more guidance.
  • Telephone calls from someone claiming they can fix your computer problems by downloading some software or giving them information about your computer. The scammers are looking to hack into your computer and steal your passwords and log-ins. Take your computer to IT services in the library if you think your computer security has been compromised.
  • Fake immigration calls pretending to be from the UK Home Office or national authorities. The Home Office will never ring you (or message you in WeChat) threatening to deport you. If you get contacted in this way, come and see an adviser. We have direct contact with the Home Office and we can check all your immigration matters for you.

There are many more though, see ActionFraud’s A-Z of fraudsfor more examples.

How to spot a scam

It can be difficult to spot a scam, but there are some common signs which you can look out for. Consumer rights website Which? suggests you ask some simple questions if you are concerned someone is trying to scam you.

If in doubt always double-check the details of any possible scam. It is better to contact the company thorough alternative means such as calling an official number or logging into the website directly.

If you think someone is trying to scam you or you are concerned you have been scammed then come and speak to us. If you have been scammed you can report it via Action Fraud. You can also contact Victim First; their services are free and confidential, they can provide emotional and practical support to help you cope and recover. We run some appointments with Victim First and you can find information about those here.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is where scammers obtain your personal information (name, date of birth, address etc.) to commit identity fraud. The information may be used in several ways to impersonate you including:

  • Opening bank accounts and credit cards
  • Taking over your existing accounts and cards
  • Obtaining genuine documents such as passports and driving licences

You may not become aware that it has happened until you start to receive bills or invoices for things you haven’t ordered, or when you receive letters from debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours.

CIFAS has further information about how to protect your identity and what to do if you believe someone is impersonating you.

How can I protect myself?

You can help to protect yourself:

  • Be careful how much of your personal information you put on social media – can people see your date of birth, your phone number, your address? Remove unnecessary information and review your account settings.
  • Shred paper documents or letters showing your name and address (or other identifying details) before putting in the bin.
  • Keep passwords to yourself and change them often.
  • Keep financial documents in a secure place in your home.
  • Do not give personal or security details away to callers – Keep PIN numbers secret.
  • If you get an unusual call from a bank, do not call them back on the number they provide.
  • Visit the bank’s website to find their Customer Service number, or go into your branch and check out the situation with them.
  • Check your bank statements often and report any transactions you do not recognise to your bank.

What to do if you believe you have had your identity stolen or been the victim or identity theft

If you believe your identity has been stolen it can be very upsetting and difficult to sort out. You should contact your bank, credit card company and the police via ActionFraud as soon as possible to let them know the situation. You can contact Victim First; their services are free and confidential, they can provide emotional and practical support to help you cope and recover.  You can also contact us for advice and support.

How can the University Support you?

There are multiple webpages dedicated to different money matters available to give you guidance.

If you require further guidance or advice you can contact the Student Advice and Support Service.

Last Updated: 5th January 2023