We’ve been alerted to a scam that currently seems to be going around which is targeting students and in particular international students. This scam takes the form of contacting students by phone or WhatsApp message pretending to be HMRC (the people you pay your tax to), with the aim of getting the victim to send across funds by bank transfer. Examples of the way they try to do this include:
- Calling with an automated voice message telling the victim they have received a letter from HMRC that they haven’t replied to.
- Making the matter seem urgent and scaring people into cooperating.
- Getting the victim to press 1 on their phone to speak to an ‘agent’.
- Giving the victim a number to call back which is a premium rate number and will cost the user a lot of money to call.
- Asking the victim to transfer a large amount of money for unpaid tax, immigration fees or National Insurance fees.
Tips to avoid falling victim to scams:
- Get a second opinion. If something seems a little off about something you’re about to take part in or pay money for, ask someone you trust to have a look with you. They may notice something you haven’t or may be familiar with a similar situation themselves.
- Don’t make snap decisions. Take time away to consider a situation that has the potential to be not all that it seems. It can be easy to rush into responding to something if they make it seem urgent or get caught up in the excitement of something new that seems like a perfect opportunity, but taking a step back can give you time to clear your head and assess its legitimacy.
- Never give your personal details such as your full name and address, bank account details and National Insurance number over text, WhatsApp or email.
- Your bank and HMRC will never contact you by WhatsApp, so be extra suspicious of this kind of message.
- Never send large amounts of money without having a conversation with your bank first. If you need to contact your bank and they’re not based in this country, you should call them directly and not use any phone numbers given in communication with the potential scammer.
- Similarly, if you are called by someone claiming to be HMRC or your bank, put the phone down and call them directly using their official phone number on their website.
Scam and Fraud Awareness:
Whilst these tips are a starting point and useful to keep in mind, it can really help to familiarise yourself with common scams and emerging techniques fraudsters are using to trick people out of money. A few resources for increasing your awareness of scams:
- The University’s Student Funding Team team have some fantastic resources available, aiming to help students recognise scams and protect themselves from them. They have links to trusted information from Action Fraud and also from UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs), focusing on those targeting International Students. The information on SHU Money Skills includes types of fraud which sometimes specifically target students including rental fraud, gaming and essay writing scams.
- Blackbullion is an online service that offers a great range of resources to help improve your financial health. They’re tailored specifically to students and provide short, interactive pieces of information that are easy to digest. Specifically, there is a 10 minute pathway on scam awareness, including types of scams, how to spot the signs and further information on reporting anything suspicious.
- Most banks offer awareness sessions on common and emerging scams which are more likely to target your bank account itself. These are often tailored to your bank specifically, and there are often trained experts on hand to guide you through any queries or concerns you may have. Banks with these services include Natwest, Barclays, Halifax and Monzo.
- Citizens Advice runs the Scams Awareness campaign in close collaboration with the Consumer Protection Partnership. Together they work to identify, prioritise and coordinate collective action to tackle detriment. Citizens Advice have lots of information about scams on their website, and also have a helpline you can call if you need further advice and support: 0808 223 1133.
Finally, it’s likely that if you’ve been a victim of a scam, your wellbeing and mental health is likely to suffer. If you’re facing this, it’s important to look after your mental health, and there is a range of support available:
- SHU Wellbeing is a great starting point for accessing support when you’re struggling with your wellbeing, whether you’re in need of urgent help or having concerns about your longer-term mental health. You can either access self-help resources or register for further support. If you need further information on SHU’s Wellbeing services, you can visit Hallam Help either in person or online.
- Hallam Support Triangle: If you’re concerned about your wellbeing or mental health and it’s starting to affect your studies, you can visit your Student Support Officer who can help you access specialist services when you need them you to extra support.
- Togetherall is a safe, online community where people support each other anonymously to improve mental health and wellbeing. Online resources include community forums, courses, and mindfulness exercises.
- Samaritans are a charity providing immediate support to people in emotional distress, struggling to cope or at risk of suicide. As well as providing many online resources, they have a 24/7 help line for anyone who is in need or urgent support. You can find out more about Samaritans by visiting their website, drop them an email or call on 116 123 for support.
- Emergency Services: If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call the Emergency Services on 999 or 112 from any phone.