Scammers from the upside down coming after students
For students heading to university, it’s an exciting time, full of promise. But emerging from the Upside Down, waiting in the wings, scammers are looking to exploit the period of change by targeting students’ money through a wide variety of scams. So what should students look out for and how can they protect themselves?
Wed 14 September 2022
In the past year, more than half of students (53%) have been targeted by criminals according to NatWest. Scams take many different forms and the scammers are trying to exploit this key moment of change in young people’s lives to steal their money.
Sometimes the scammers pose as bank staff or as if they are from HMRC, sometimes offering fake tax rebates. What they are really after is personal information that they can use to expose the victims to further scams and theft.
What scams to look out for in particular as a student?
There are many scams being targeted at students. Here are a few:
Tuition Fee Scams
Scammers use a variety of ways to connect with potential student victims of fraud, including face to face contact at student events or via social media platforms such as WeChat, SnapChat, Telegram, Whatsapp and Facebook. The criminals’ approach is to offer significant discounts in exchange for data, that might include bank details. For international students there is a further risk of being conned when the scammers present fake but ‘too-good-to-be-true’ currency exchange rates when paying tuition fees to tempt young people in.
Sometimes the scammers offer ‘help’ to pay the student’s tuition fees. But they use a stolen credit card to do so. The account shows up as paid on the university system, the student pays the scammer. But then the defrauded bank comes looking for the money and the student is out of pocket.
Students are not just at risk of losing money in these scams. They are illegal and it means that in some cases, students can be found guilty of facilitating money laundering, a serious offence. Getting pulled into these scams could result in students receiving a criminal record whilst at the same time losing huge sums of money.
Student Loans Company and Tax Refund Phishing Emails
A common method for initiating a scam is where a student receives an email or text from what appears to be the student loan company asking for bank details. It’s a phishing attempt, trying to get you to click on a link that could download malware or to harvest personal data, or seek to get you to enter online banking details.
Student accommodation is often hard to find and there is sometimes pressure to act fast to secure a place. Ads are run by scammers, coaxing students to pay fees up front for accommodation that turns out not to exist. Always double check it’s for real and ideally use the university accommodation service.
This is happening in schools as well as in universities. To the student, it looks like a scheme to make some money. But 'money mules' receive stolen funds into their account and are then asked to withdraw and wire the money to a different account (often overseas), keeping a little of the money for themselves. Even if you’re unaware that the money you’re transferring was illegally obtained, you can still be prosecuted for money laundering, leading to conviction and a criminal record.
Hard luck/lost card scams
This is where a student is approached by someone who claims to have lost their bank card and needs money. So, they ask for cash and say that in return they will transfer the money into the student’s account. They will even show it on an app on their phone - but it’s likely to be a fake banking app, meaning no money has gone into the student’s account. Not only that, now they probably have the student’s account details.
Bank account at risk
Scammers make fake calls, pretending to be from the student’s bank saying their bank account has been attacked and for safety reasons their money will need to be moved into a new account.
Remember, you should never give your financial details to someone you don’t know and trust. Banks will never call you to ask you to move your money. Hang up and call your bank from the number on the back of your card.
Online tickets for gigs
Fake websites can often be very sophisticated and sometimes look just like the real thing. There are many stories of people, especially students, buying tickets for gigs online, but for fake, non-existent tickets. The tickets don’t show up and the chances are, you’ve given the scammer your card details, leading to further fraud.
Too many students are falling for these scams.
Across the 18-34 demographic, here are some statistics:
- 42% have been victim to a scam, and a further 29% have come close
- As a result of a scam, 36% lost money and 20% reported a negative impact on their mental health.
- Just 21% reset passwords following a scam, compared to an average of 36% across all ages
- Young people are online an average of 7.6 hours per day, more than any other age demographic
- Just 40% create strong passwords manually, with the same percentage changing passwords regularly (40%)
- Only 39% say they don’t overshare information on social media to protect themselves online, meaning almost two thirds aren’t considering the data they’re sharing widely whilst online
- Just 32% purchase additional protection for web browsers – as young people set off for university for the first time, most with their own laptop, basic web protection is a must-have
- 14% have fallen victim to a tech support online scams vs 9% national average across ages
- 65% are confident they’ll never fall victim to a scam – they’re more concerned than older generations but aren’t considering basic steps to protect themselves
- 24% think they’re most likely to fall victim to an email scam, compared to social media (10%) or phone call (14%)
How can you tell you’re being targeted?
So, there are lots of different scamming methods and ploys. There are a few key telltale signs that are worth remembering. Be cautious if:
- You’re contacted out of the blue
- It’s a deal that sounds too good to be true
- You’re asked for personal details
- You’re pressurised to make an immediate decision
- You see obvious grammatical or spelling mistakes on possibly fake sites
- You’re asked to keep something secret
- No contact details are provided or, at best, just a mobile phone number or PO Box address.
Most universities and colleges provide guidance against becoming victims of phishing and other scams. To help protect yourself, you can reduce the amount of data that companies have on you. If those companies don't have your data, they can’t lose it or have it stolen by hackers and scammers. Rightly Protect is our product that can help you find out which companies have your data and then get it deleted from those that don’t need it any more, quickly and for free.