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Keep safe - tips for avoiding student scams

Woman in front of computer
Woman in front of computer

Written by
UAL Communications
Published date
23 October 2019

Students are often being targeted by fraudsters in a bid to steal personal details or money. Such incidents routinely come up when students are joining university, so here are a few things you should be aware of to avoid being conned.

10 warning signs

  1. Police will never demand money in order to cancel an arrest.
  2. Police will never ask you to withdraw or transfer money so “it can be checked”.
  3. Reputable organisations will never ask for your personal or financial details out of the blue - if a caller or an email demands these, do not provide them.
  4. If an organisation or individual contacts you from a free email provider like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail, it might be a scam.
  5. If an email address contains "–" or "_" in place of ".", for example or rather than then it could be fake.
  6. If someone asks you to pay for something in advance – especially by bank transfer, think twice.
  7. If someone pressures you into buying something or making a decision quickly, be alarmed – a trustworthy organisation will be happy to wait.
  8. If someone asks for any personal information, like bank details, computer passwords or PIN numbers, they might be trying to scam you.
  9. If you’re asked to phone an expensive number – these usually start with 070, 084, 087, 090, 091 or 098 – think twice.
  10. If an email or a website has spelling mistakes, watch out – trustworthy websites are less likely to have them.

Other top tips include:

  • Take a moment to think before parting with your information or money.
  • Don’t give out private information or reply to text messages.
  • Don’t download attachments or click on links in texts or emails you weren’t expecting.
  • It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests - only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

HMRC and council tax scams

Scammers can take advantage of new students, especially when moving to a new area.

Be aware if someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). They may say that you can claim financial help, that you are owed or due a tax payment and even ask for bank details. Do NOT take action or send money.

Check GOV.UK for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact.

More examples of current HMRC related phishing and bogus contact can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Think you've been a victim?

  • Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to and texts to 60599.
  • Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, and report it to Action Fraud.

Covid-19 scams

Fraudsters constantly find new ways to con people out of their money and personal data. Tactics even include taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic, with some fraudsters claiming that need to pay for things such as Covid-19 tests, track and trace searches and even claiming that you're entitled to financial support.

If you receive contact, do NOT part with your money or send your bank details.

Scams targeting your UAL email account

It's important to be vigilant of fraudulent emails targeting your UAL email account as well as your personal emails.

  • Suspicious emails may come from a non-UAL email domain such as and may appear as if it's a reply to an email from your own account by having "re:" at the beginning of the subject line.
  • There could be a button, link or image within the body of the email asking you click it. Do not click this as it could release a virus onto your device.
  • If you're worried you've received or acted on a suspicious email to your UAL email account, please contact the IT Service Desk on +44 (0)20 7514 9898. They are available 24/7, 365 days a year and can advise on your next steps. You should also reset your password as soon as possible using Password Self Service (PSS).
  • If you have clicked a suspicious link on a personal device, you should run anti-virus software to avoid any harmful software spreading. Make sure you have the latest version of anti-virus software installed at all times.

International student scam

International students are often being targeted by fraudsters posing as Home Office officials or as the police and threatening to deport them unless they pay money upfront. Students from non-EU countries are often a target because they are likely to require visas to be in the country.

Don’t be embarrassed to report

  • If you have made a payment to someone claiming to be the police or government department, and you think you might be a victim of fraud, please report it to Action Fraud as soon as possible.
  • Ask your students’ union Arts SU or contact Student Services for advice, help and support.
  • If you’re worried your personal email accounts may have been targeted, you can use the Have I been pwned? site to check for any data breaches.

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