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Be fraud aware at uni

Learn how to better protect yourself from fraud

Fraudsters can take advantage of you when you’re at uni – learn how to better protect yourself with our handy tips.

Whether it’s via your smartphone, laptop or other digital device, you’re always connected – for the serious (study and revision!) and the rather more sociable. And for the most part, it’s great. Unfortunately, it also exposes us to the threat of fraud and scams. Here are some of the most common to watch out for, and some tips to help better protect yourself from them.

‘Phishing’

Fraudsters send emails (often appearing to be from your bank or an official body such as HMRC) asking you to disclose personal info or send money. They may also ask you to download a file or click on a link to a bogus website, which then allows fraudsters to access your details.

What you can do
Hover your mouse over web links to check they are genuine. You can also report the email by looking at your mailbox toolbar and clicking on the ‘mark as phishing’ option – then delete the message. We’ll never email you a link to click through or ask for your security details.

’Vishing’

You receive a phone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be, for example, a police sergeant or bank fraud prevention officer, or an officer in technical support from a company’s customer services.

The pitch may then go like this: they’re calling about a refund or problem with your payment card. To sort it, they ask you to confirm your payment and bank account details. You share these and the fraudsters then take payments from your account.

Or tech support impersonators claim they’ve detected a fault with your laptop or computer, and need to access it remotely to fix the problem. They may also say you need to buy a piece of software straightaway to solve the problem. Fraudsters can take on any number of very convincing personas to try and hoodwink you, so be alert – the above are just some of the most recent to emerge.

What you can do
Such a call out of the blue is unlikely to be legitimate, so if you’re unsure of the person’s credibility, hang up. Go online and find the number for the department they’re claiming to be from. If possible, call them from another phone so that you can be confident you’re speaking to a legitimate person from the company or organisation you have a relationship with. You can also use our phone number checker to see if a number is authentic.
Remember, if you ever get a call claiming to be from Barclays, we’ll never ask you for your PIN, password or PINsentry codes.

Online shopping scams

It’s never been easier to book tickets for gigs, grab a student discount for dinner or buy books for courses online. But it means fraudsters are always ready to step in and advertise a bogus or fake product or a service, take your payment but then never deliver what you paid for.

What you can do
Before sending your cash online to a private seller or even a legitimate-looking brand, do a thorough search to see if they’re genuine, and that they have good ratings and reviews. Use secure payment options like PayPal or a credit card instead of transferring funds.

The accommodation for rent… that belongs to someone else

Most students seek to live in rented digs while at university – and fraudsters love to pounce on unwary undergrads. They will advertise a property that belongs to someone else as if it’s for rent – and then ask for a deposit or rent in advance before you’ve seen it. Though you can look at it online, the fraudster may use excuses for the property not being available to physically view such as being ‘overseas on business’. The bogus landlord will then insist on the first month's rental to be sent by a money transfer service, promising to then forward the keys via a courier service. Sadly, the keys either fail to arrive or – if they do – won’t work when you turn up to move in.

What you can do
Use reputable high street tenancy agents and always view a property inside and outside before entering into any agreement or parting with any money.

Ask to see legally required documents such as energy performance and gas safety certificates.

Also check that the rental price is typical of properties in the area you’re looking. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The ‘money mule’ trap

Many students find themselves strapped for cash and it’s no surprise you may be tempted by job offers to make ‘easy money’ on job-search and social media websites. Whatever the job, it will – crucially – also involve you being offered a payment in exchange for receiving money temporarily into your bank account. You could then be asked to withdraw the cash to hand over or transfer it on. However, allowing your bank account to be used in this way makes you a money mule and could land you with a criminal record and the consequences of being caught are serious. Your bank account can be closed and you’ll have problems opening a new account elsewhere, as well as difficulties obtaining credit in the future such as a student loan, phone contract or mortgage. Depending on the severity, you could be imprisoned for up to 14 years.

What you can do
Be wary of unsolicited offers of easy money. Research any company offering such job opportunities and make sure their contact details are genuine. Try to stick to reputable job ad websites used and recommended by your peers or university, and be especially cautious of job offers from overseas as it will be harder for you to find out if they are legitimate.

Watch out when you use free wifi

It’s a lifesaver for any student who needs to go online with a deadline looming – free wifi in a café or public space.

But any security weakness in the wifi network could be exploited by criminals to intercept your data and defraud you.

What you can do
Avoid making financial transactions and steer clear of sending personal data to websites. If you don’t want to hand over your main personal email address to use the free wifi, set up an alternative to use instead – and don’t save passwords on your browser.

Take our digitally safe quiz to test your fraud awareness.