What is a Scam?
Scams are schemes to con you out of your money. They can arrive by post, phone call, text message or email, or from someone coming to your home.
The most common type of scam that students will encounter is in connection with renting accommodation but there are other ways fraudsters will try to steal your money.
Phishing is where you are tricked into entering your personal information into fake forms or websites, so that they can use this information to access your bank account or take out credit in your name.
Scam emails ask you for personal information like passwords or bank details to get money. This is called ‘phishing’.
They often look like they’re from a real company - like a bank or building society. Remember that your bank will never ask you to confirm personal details by clicking on an email link.
If you’re not sure if it’s a scam, check:
- • The email or website address - if it’s a scam, it might have a strange address or come from a free email provider like Gmail
- • For spelling mistakes - trustworthy websites are less likely to have them
- • If the website starts with https:// - this means the information you send on the website is secure, but the website could still be a scam
- • If the website has a green padlock in the website address bar - this means the information you send on the site is private
Get advice on being safe on the internet on Get Safe Online’s website. They also have advice on protecting your computer from viruses which can sometimes steal your details.
Prize draws, sweepstakes and foreign lottery scams
You're told that you've won a prize in a competition that you haven't entered. To claim the prize you have to pay an administration fee. You pay the fee and either get back nothing or get something worth less than the fee you’ve paid. Unfortunately if it sounds too good to be true – it almost certainly is.
ATM/ cash machine fraud
Some thieves have been known to attach devices such as cameras to cash machines to collect your details. When taking cash out from an ATM you should always:
- • Look for signs of tampering - does there appear to be something stuck on the front, is it different to how usual cash machines look?
- • Use your other hand to shield what you're doing from view as you type your PIN number into a cash machine
Employment fraud happens when a fraudster claims to be a recruitment agent, hiring you for a job – which could be in a foreign country—that doesn’t exist.
They may ask you to pay an administration fee, or give your credit card details to confirm your identity. They then access you accounts and take money.
In reality an employer won’t ask you to pay money for work.
Criminals who run Money Mules scams often pose as employers offering genuine employment, sometimes via job ads and sometimes via a personal approach. If you are offered payment to receive money into your bank account and then to transfer it to another account and you agree to do this, then you are a Money Mule. Money Mules are effectively money launderers and money laundering carries a sentence of up to fourteen years imprisonment.
Working from home
You see an advertisement offering work which you can do at home, for example, stuffing envelopes or putting together home assembly kits. You're asked to pay a fee upfront and then find there's no work on offer, you only get paid if you get others to sign up, or you do the work and don’t get paid for it. For example, you assemble a kit and are told the work isn’t up to standard and you won’t be paid.
A genuine home-working scheme won't ask you to pay money upfront and will explain in writing what you are expected to do, how much you will earn, and when you will be paid. You should also be paid at least the national minimum wage.
You will see many adverts for products, often in mainstream newspapers that report to cure illnesses such as arthritis, hair-loss or even cancer. Many will show quotes from doctors and happy customers.
These types of products and medicines are unlikely to do you much good, and might even harm you. Talk to your GP before you buy any of these products.
You may be contacted on a dating or social media website by someone who quickly tries to develop a personal relationship with you. They are likely to become intense about their feelings for you and may even send you money or gifts to gain your trust. After a while, they may tell you about an emergency at home they need help with, or ask for funds to get their valuables out of the country.
Remember, it is possible to create anyone in online profile, if you haven’t met someone in person, they may not be who they say they are.
Essay mills and plagiarism checkers
Essay mills are online services where another person will write your work for you; this is serious academic misconduct and can result in very severe academic penalties. Online plagiarism checkers allow you to submit your work to see if you have plagiarised any other work, these are very unreliable and will often then sell your work to essay mills to be resold.
I think I am being scammed – what do I do?
If you are being scammed online, don’t click on anything and leave the website. You might want to keep the email as evidence in case you report the scam.
If you’ve had an email that looks like it’s from your bank, contact your bank directly using the number on your card. You can also log into your account on their website - use Google to find the real one.
You can also block the email sender or mark an email as ‘spam’ or ‘junk’ - this means you won’t see them in your inbox. Check your email provider’s help section for instructions on how to do this.
If you have given any information such as passwords or PIN numbers, change these immediately and let your bank/credit card provider know. If you use the same password for other sites, ensure you change it there as well.
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