Wellbeing & Support
Protecting yourself from fraud and scammers
We want to make sure you are staying safe from scammers and fraudsters during your time at university. Criminals want to make people feel instead of think. They will lie to trick you to get hold of your personal information and your finances.
‘Fraud’ is the crime of gaining money or financial benefits by using scams. ‘A scam’ is a dishonest plan to trick people and get their money or personal information. We want to make sure you know what to look out for. Learning more about fraud and scams is the first step to protect yourself. This article includes information on common scams, tips to keep you safe, and resources and support if you believe you have been drawn into a sca
Students are increasingly being targeted by criminal groups to act as ‘money mules’. Organised crime groups are always looking for ways to hide their illegal funds by ‘money laundering’ - concealing the proceeds from criminal activity behind layers of legitimate bank accounts.
One way of doing this is to use ‘money mules’ - people who receive cash into their bank account and then pass it on to others, usually keeping some of the money for themselves. As a result, students may unwittingly become involved in money laundering which is a serious criminal offence with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. Even if you are unaware that the money you are transferring was illegally obtained, you can still be prosecuted for money laundering. More information on money mulling can be found here.
Telecom Fraud and Email Scams
Telecom fraud is when someone uses telecommunication (phone calls or text messages) to pretend to be someone else in an effort to steal money, personal data or sensitive information from you. Most commonly scammers will call and pretend to work for the Home Office UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI), an embassy, the police, or another official authority from your home country. We often assume that if someone has our telephone number or email, it has been given to them for a good reason. This is not always true. It is important to beware of unknown numbers and emails, and to verify their authenticity.
University Fee Payment Fraud
One scam that is becoming more common is where a third party offers to pay a student's fees on their behalf at a discounted rate. Fraudsters often use online groups such as WhatsApp or WeChat to contact students and offer to pay fees directly to the University of your behalf.
These scammers will not ask for money up front, instead they will make the payment on a stolen or cloned credit card and provide you with a receipt or proof of payment, before asking you to transfer money directly to them. Although the payment(s) they make to the University can at first seem genuine, once the real cardholder realises their card has been used without their permission, the money can be claimed back (usually between 2 and 12 weeks later).
When a payment is confirmed as being fraudulent and claimed back from the University, you will be asked to make a further payment to cover this, so in effect you may have to pay twice. Only use University-approved payment methods to pay for your university fees. Never pay through a third-party agent. Check how to securely pay your fees.
Targeting applicants for UK work or study visas
It is very common for scammers to pretend they are members of the Police, the Home Office UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI), or an Embassy. When they call, they may tell you that you are under investigation for a crime and a warrant has been issued for your arrest, that there are serious issues with your visa, or that they have intercepted a suspicious package addressed to you.
The scammers will tell you not to tell anyone about the call, and let you know that you should not return to the university or your home. This is done to isolate and scare you, so you don't reach out for help and advice. In some cases scammers have asked students to go to a hotel, pretend they have been kidnapped, and send a photograph to their parents asking for money.
It is important to remember that Home Office UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) will never call you to ask for your personal information, or for payment. Professional organizations will always allow you time to get advice and guidance before you respond to them. Criminals and scammers rely on you panicking and acting quickly.
For more information and guidance on common fraud, tricks and scams you can visit this UK Government Website
Tips for Keeping Yourself Safe
Do your best to stay up to date on common scam tactics, and learn to recognize red flags. When you understand what criminals are trying to do, it is easier to make a thoughtful choice or decision. Criminals will try to rush and panic you. If you aren't sure if something is legitimate, don't be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
Be ready to say no
Take some time to think before sending money to someone you don't know. It is okay to end a conversation immediately or reject/refuse/ ignore requests to send money, sensitive information or personal data. It’s essential to say “no”, end the call/contact and to go and get advice from International Student Office or Leeds University Union first.
Verify the source
While the person contacting you may sound convincing, you should always take time to verify the source. Do your research and double check phone numbers and email addresses. Sometimes the emails address you originally see will be in official government formatting, but when you click it, it creates and email that will be sent to a different address.
Always verify the actual address on the email you are sending. If you are unsure about a phone number, hang up and check the official government or business website for the correct phone number. You can always call the official number back to let them know you were previously speaking with someone.
The best way to protect yourself is by not giving out any of your personal information. If scammers already have some of your personal information make sure you do not confirm anything. If you are suspicious do not pay anyone any money.
Call for Help
If you aren’t sure about something, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you think you have seen a scam, are currently being scammed or have experienced fraud, there is support available.
The Harassment and Misconduct team are the recommended first point of contact for any student who has been impacted by frauds or scam, as well as any form of violence, abuse, bullying, harassment or discrimination. You don’t have to make a report to access their services. With your consent the team of specialist advisors can help you with:
- Offering confidential advice and info to help you decide what’s right for you
- Navigating academic accommodations or living concerns
- Being referred to counselling, medical and legal services
- Accessing self-care support
- Providing info and educational information
- Being there to listen
- Making a formal complaint or report, on-campus or off
The best way to get in touch with the Harassment and Misconduct team is to complete the disclosure form. A specialist advisor will contact you within one working day. Alternatively, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to know more about the team? Meet our specialist advisors in the Harassment and Misconduct team.
Leeds University Union (LUU) Advice team: Independent of the university, an advisor can talk through your options and support you through whatever decision you make. They can help with practical issues such as any impact on your studies, accommodation or finances.
Student Visa Advice
More information about frauds and scams targeting international students can be found at UKVI Advice on frauds, tricks and scams and atUK Council for International Student Affairs Advice on frauds and scams
Reporting Suspicious Activity
Speak to Action Fraud: you can report fraud or cybercrime to Action Fraud any time of the day or night using their online reporting tool. Reporting online is quick and easy. The tool will guide you through simple questions to identify what has happened and our advisors are available twenty four hours to give you help and advice if you need it.
Report to the Police: You can contact the Police directly by phoning 101 or doing an online chat with the 101 service (this can be quicker to get through) - https://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/101LiveChat. You can also speak to our University Police Higher Education Liaison Officer, PC Vanessa Jardine. You can contact her on: 07719 417879 (8am – 4pm, Mon – Fri).
If you don't feel comfortable sharing your contact information, but you would still like someone to know you have experienced fraud or a scam, you can complete the anonymous disclosure form on Report + Support.
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