Caution: Most common university scams


There’s a wealth of opportunity at university; depending on your university, you will be exposed to different cultures, environments, and people from across the globe. However, you may be exposed to opportunists who wish to capitalize on new students who haven’t yet navigated their surroundings. We at Cybernews Academy want to prepare you for the beginning of your studies by making you aware of the various scams targeted at university students. We have researched the most common university scams and discussed ways to avoid these attacks.

Student phishing scams

Student loan phishing scams are among the most common scams new students face when arriving at university. The U.K. government website suggests that “scammers may trick students into giving away personal and financial information by sending fake emails and texts or calling and pretending to be from Student Loans Company (SLC), Student Finance England (SFE), or other legitimate organizations.” Similarly, U.S. students, particularly international students, have fallen victim to phishing scams. The U.S. World and News Report states that “prospective and current students should be aware of scams related to immigration, accommodation, and taxes.” These scams come in the form of threats made by “immigration officials” or other false organizations claiming to be legitimate. They often claim that you must send funds or other items of monetary value to avoid being deported or jailed. According to Homeland Security, “these scams occur when strangers, often impersonating government agency personnel, contact students and intimidate them by threatening their immigration status or university standing. Scammers then ask students to provide payment or personal information.” This personal information may then be used to steal your identity and be sold to other parties.

Remember:

  • Student loan companies should not ask you to provide personal details over the phone or via email.
  • Loan companies will not contact you via social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram or direct messaging services like WhatsApp.
  • Don’t give your personal information to anyone online unless you have verified that it is going to the right person.
  • Be careful what you click. If you receive an email with a link, inspect it by hovering over it to ensure its credibility. If it’s going to a random website, DO NOT CLICK IT.
  • If you receive any unsolicited emails or messages, report them to the relevant authority

Accommodation scams

Alongside student phishing scams, there are also accommodation scams, where students will be tricked into putting a deposit on a flat or house without seeing the property. Alternatively, when a student makes an inquiry on the property, they will be told that they must send a bank statement showing that they have enough money to rent this property. Once this scam artist has received the funds, they will cease contact, and all paperwork and keys promised will never come to fruition.

Remember:

  • Never pay a landlord or property manager any money without seeing the place first. This is a big red flag for deception.
  • if it's too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Be cautious when providing contact information to anyone you haven’t met before.
  • Use reputable letting or leasing companies.
  • If you have given sensitive information regarding your bank account credit card or have sent money to an unknown entity, contact your bank immediately.

Scholarship scams

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “Scholarship and financial aid scams often start with a social media post, email, or letter.” This will often be a personalized invitation claiming that you have been selected for a scholarship at a fee. The Federal Trade Commission states that you should “never pay to apply for a scholarship. If a company promises you a scholarship or grant in exchange for a “processing cost” or “redemption fee” you should simply walk away from it. You could even receive a letter or email stating that you are in the FTC’s words “finalist” for a scholarship you never even applied for. In addition, these scamming companies may ask you for your credit card information to confirm your eligibility. This could lead to scammers removing money from your account against your will.

Remember:

  • Never pay a fee to apply for scholarships or financial aid.
  • Legitimate companies will never guarantee you scholarships or financial aid; don’t trust those that do.
  • Don’t give your card details to an unknown entity, person, or organization.
  • If you receive any unsolicited emails or messages, report them to the relevant authority.
  • If you have given sensitive information regarding your bank account credit card or have sent money to an unknown entity, contact your bank immediately.

Delivery scams

In 2023, delivery scams were among the most common scams targeted at students. A statistic from Digit News claims that 14% have experienced this scam in the U.K. In the U.S., these scams also exist. Scammers expect the victim to click a link and enter personal information or ask you to pay a fee. These messages may look reputable with the logo of common delivery agents like DHL, USPS, or Royal Mail, yet they are fraudulent.

Remember:

  • Don’t provide personal information about bank accounts, passwords, and other information like your home address.
  • Be wary of unsolicited messages asking for personal information.
  • Don’t click on unsolicited links; they may infect your device by downloading malware and other malicious software.
  • If you receive any unsolicited emails or messages, report them to the relevant authority
  • If you have given sensitive information regarding your bank account credit card or have sent money to an unknown entity, contact your bank immediately.

Tax scams

Another common scam that students face is tax scams. This is where Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) fraudsters solicit emails to those with academic email addresses stating that they have information surrounding a tax refund. These imposters are sending these emails with the sole purpose of extracting personal information from you. According to the Consumer Advice page of the Federal Trade Commission, if you see a message or email with the subject “Tax Refund Payment” or “Recalculation of Your Tax Refund,” then you should be wary. These emails often request you to click a link, submit a form, and claim “your” refund. The Consumer Advice page suggests that the website will ask for personal information that may include your name, social security number, date of birth, annual income, driver’s license, PIN, and other sensitive information.

Remember:

  • If you believe you have been a target of a tax scam, give any information you may have to your university and local authorities.
  • Don’t give your sensitive information out freely. Think before inputting any information.
  • Don’t click on links or download attachments from unsolicited emails or messages, as these could contain malware and other malicious software.
  • If you have given sensitive information regarding your bank account credit card or have sent money to an unknown entity, contact your bank immediately.

Cybernews Academy Note: There are various common telltale signs of scammers, such as poor use of punctuation, grammar, and spelling in phishing emails. However, criminals are becoming more and more sophisticated as technology advances. Be aware of all emails, messages, social media posts, and letters. And remember, think before you click.

We at Cybernews Academy hope to equip you with the relevant materials needed to begin or continue your prosperous academic journey. Unfortunately, scammers are everywhere, and we need to ensure that we can defend ourselves from their criminal arsenal. There are some vital things that we need to remember to ensure our personal information, bank details, and money are secure.

  1. Don’t click on anything you’re unsure of– make sure it's legit before you click.
  2. Don’t give your personal details, including bank details, social security numbers, and other sensitive information.
  3. If you believe you’ve been a victim scam, report this to the relevant authorities and get it dealt with immediately.