Most of us know what we think a scam victim looks like. Non-tech savvy, older perhaps? The unfortunate reality is that scammers are everywhere.
If you have been the victim of a student scam, don’t be embarrassed, student scams are a particularly unpleasant form of con aimed directly at younger people, often at the point you get your student loan.
So join me in this article to discover more about some of the worst examples, how to avoid them, and more importantly, how to get any money back you’ve lost.
This post is all about common student scams and how to avoid them.
UNIVERSITY STUDENT SCAMS
Why are students scammed?
Student scams are becoming more and more common in the UK. One reason for this is that student populations are sizable.
According to recent government figures in 2020/21, there were a staggering 2.66 million students at UK higher education institutions.
Another reason is that they regularly have substantial sums of money in their accounts at specific times, which means they can be easy for scammers to target.
There are many different types of student scams, but some of the most common include:
- Paying for fake degrees or qualifications
- Falling for job scams
- Student loan timing scams
- Being scammed by bogus letting agents
- Buying fake concert or event tickets
- Losing money to online gambling scams
- Falling for student loan scams
- False advertising for student discounts or freebies
- Phishing scams
If you’re a student in the UK, it’s important to be aware of these scams so that you can protect yourself.
There are a few things you can do to avoid being scammed:
- Research any company or individual you’re thinking of doing business with. This includes checking reviews and looking for red flags (e.g., promises of guaranteed success or easy money).
- Never pay for anything upfront without first getting a contract in writing.
- Beware of any offers that seem too good to be true.
- Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of any agreement before you sign it.
- Don’t give out personal or financial information to anyone you don’t know or trust.
Have you been the victim of a student scam?
If you think you may have been the victim of a student scam, act quickly.
Contact your bank or card provider and tell them what happened. They may be able to cancel the transaction or give you your money back.
If you have been the victim of a student scam, you can also file a report with the following organisations:
- Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre
- Citizens Advice
- The Competition and Markets Authority
- National trading standards.
So, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common types of student scams so you can be on the lookout.
“If you think you may have been the victim of a student scam, act quickly.”
Some student accommodations providers are not legitimate. They may take your money but not provide the promised accommodation, or they may provide substandard accommodation.
An example of a fake accommodation scam can be found here. Fake accommodation scams are usually targeted at international students, moving to a new country to study and desperate for a place to live so they don’t end up on the streets.
Do your research on any student accommodation provider before you commit to anything, and make sure you understand the terms of your contract.
- Only use student housing providers that are accredited by UK NARIC, the national agency responsible for giving information about UK qualifications and their international equivalence.
- Make sure you understand the terms of your contract before you sign anything.
- Pay by credit card if possible, as this will give you extra protection under UK consumer law.
- Check that the student accommodation provider is on the list of student housing companies recognised by the National Union of Students (NUS).
The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) also provides some helpful guidance on how to respond to suspected fraud/ scammers.
Student loan timing scams
These types of scams are becoming more and more common.
You may receive an email or call from someone claiming to be from your student loan servicer, saying that you’re behind on your payments or that you need to take action to consolidate your loans.
They may even threaten legal action if you don’t pay up. These are all scams; do not give out any personal information or send any money.
Some student loan repayment scams also involve criminals calling you on the phone.
They might say you’re behind on your student loan payments and threaten to garnish your wages or threaten you with prison if you don’t pay up immediately.
They might ask you to send them money or give them your bank account information so they can directly deposit the “payment.”
Don’t fall for it. These callers are trying to scam you.
They might even say they’re from the Department of Education or another government agency. But hang up and call the customer service number on your student loan servicer’s website to check if the call is legitimate.
Exam cheating services
Exam cheating services have become increasingly prevalent in recent years as the pressure to succeed has grown.
These services can take many forms, from online essay mills, which sell essays written by others, to ghostwriting services, which will write an entire exam for a student.
Cheating in exams is cheating yourself; not only are you not learning anything, but if you’re caught, you could be expelled from your course. Don’t risk it!
If you get expelled, you still have to pay back the money Student Finance has given you so far, even if you don’t get to complete the degree, so why risk it? It’s not worth it in the end.
There are many scams targeting student loan borrowers.
Some companies may promise to consolidate your loans or get you a lower interest rate, but end up charging you fees without actually doing anything.
Others may claim to offer student loan forgiveness, but again, you will likely have to pay a fee.
Be very careful of any company that contacts you about your student loans; it’s best to contact your loan servicer directly if you have questions or want to explore consolidation or forgiveness options.
Scammers will often target students by advertising fake jobs or internships.
They may contact students through email, social media, or even in person.
The goal of these scams is usually to get personal information or money from the student.
There are several fake job offers to target students, particularly those who are looking for part-time or summer jobs too.
These scams usually involve the student paying a fee to apply for the job or to receive training, which is not refundable even if the student doesn’t get the job.
Be sure to do your research on any company you’re considering working for.
Never pay anything upfront for a job, only apply for jobs through reputable sources, and never give out personal information or money to someone you don’t know.
HMRC warns students working a part-time job could be susceptible to tax scams. According to the HMRC, nearly half of all tax scams offer fake tax refunds, which HMRC does not offer by SMS or email. The criminals involved are usually trying to steal money or personal information to sell on to others. HMRC is a familiar brand, which scammers abuse to add credibility to their scams.
Phishing is a type of online scam where criminals send emails or texts pretending to be from a legitimate organisation.
They often include a link to a fake website that looks real.
The goal is to trick you into giving them your personal information, like your login ID, password, or bank account information.
If you get an email or text like this, don’t click on any links. Delete it right away.
Social Media Scams
Another common way that scammers target students is through social media.
Scammers will often create fake social media accounts and friend or follow students to try to scam them.
They may also send direct messages or comments trying to get personal information or money from students.
Be sure to only friend and follow people you know, and be cautious of any messages or requests for personal information or money.
Online shopping scams
One of the most common ways that scammers target students is through online shopping scams. This can include fake concert tickets or even fake offers of student discounts or freebies.
Scammers will set up fake online stores and sell fake or counterfeit products to unsuspecting students.
Be sure to only buy from reputable online retailers, and be wary of any deals that seem too good to be true.
In the UK, Action Fraud is the authority that online fraud and cybercrime are reported. They have the authority to shut down fake, malicious websites that scams people.
There are also scams targeting students who are looking for scholarships. Some companies may charge a fee to help you find scholarships, but there are many free resources available online that can do the same thing.
Others may claim they can guarantee you a scholarship, but no one can do that. Be very careful of any company that contacts you about scholarships; it’s best to do your research.
But wait, there’s more. Watch this video about popular scams, it’s so relatable and it may shock you!
Final thoughts on student scams…
So I hope this gives you some useful information on what to look out for to protect yourself from student scams.
Always remember that when it comes to scams, the scammers want your money and/or personal information about you that they can use to either scam you themselves or sell on to other people who will use it to set you up for a scam. Keep your eyes open and stay cautious.
Don’t forget to check out my blog for more student help and other topics I’m passionate about in the student world that you may not have been taught in school!
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