Protect yourself against scams
A SCAM is a fraudulent scheme performed by a dishonest individual, group, or company in an attempt to obtain money or something else of value. Anyone can be targeted and everyone is at risk so it is important you learn how to recognise a scam and protect yourself againt them.
Scams are now very sophisticated (and can be complex) using impersonation techniques, stolen data or personal details from social media to make you believe what they say is genuine. Scammers may think you are an easy target because you are away from home, family and friends. You may be unfamiliar with local laws or not know where to go for help and advice.
Student specific scams that you should be aware of include:
Student Loans Company phishing scam Students get an email from what appears to be the Student Loans Company asking for their bank details.
Rental fraudReports indicate that £22 million has been lost to rental fraud in the last four years. Students looking for property are asked to pay a fee in advance for a property that doesn’t even exist.
Money laundering or money mules Young people under the age of 21 are the fastest growing age group being recruited as money mules by criminals.
The ‘virtual kidnapping’ scam This is a particularly nasty scam where a student is contacted by someone pretending to be from the Embassy of their home country who tells them they are implicated in a serious crime. They are persuaded not to tell anyone and to cut off all contact with their family and ‘kidnap’ themselves. Money is then extorted from the family as well as from the student.
Fake Home Office scamThis one also targets international students. Fake police or Home Office officials contact the student and tell them they did not complete the correct paperwork on entry into the country and that they must pay a fine or be deported.
HMRC scam Fraudsters ring and tell the victim that they will be arrested for tax fraud, unless they instantly hand over payment details and pay a fee OR 'HMRC' offers a 'tax refund' in exchange for personal or financial details.
Tuition payment scams Students are contacted and offered ‘help’ to pay their tuition fees or told they can have a bursary if they supply their bank details.
Foreign exchange scams Students looking for favourable exchange rates may unwittingly be laundering money and may also end up losing their money.
We are also aware of scams affecting Chinese students
Fraudsters using WeChat and mobile contacts contact students on their mobile phone claiming to represent their bank, the embassy, police or other reputable agency and are told they owe funds immediately, often being offered preferential exchange rates on currency conversions. The video below made with the help of the Chinese Consulate provides more details asdoes the student safety leaflet:
You can read more about these type of scams at Which? University or download:
Protect yourself against scams
- avoid any unexpected contact - phone calls, letters, emails or people knocking on your door should be ignored
- never give out personal information and watch what you share on social media - this can be used to steal your identity and access accounts
- keep mobiles devices, operating system and virus protection software up-to-date
- make sure all accounts have a strong passwords and change them regularly
- don’t make any advanced payments until you are sure the company you’re dealing with is legitimate
- use safe and secure WiFi connections and avoid public WiFi. Your standard 3G or 4G connection is often more secure than the one in the coffee shop or restaurant
- make sure any websites you are using are secure - check to see if the web address starts with HTTPS, not just HTTP
- if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is
If you or someone you know has been targeted by scammers or involved in a fraud you can contact:
Subject to re-opening guidelines (to be advised) you can visit EdHelp on-campus at the Main Library (George Square) and the Noreen and Kenneth Murray Library (King’s Buildings).
University of Edinburgh Security: + 44 (0) 131 650 2257 or email: email@example.com
13 Infirmary Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LT
The Advice Place: phone: +44 (0) 131 650 9225 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Potterrow Office, 5/2 Bristo Square, Edinburgh EH8 9AL
King’s Buildings House Office, University of Edinburgh King's Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3JF