Every year students lose money through a variety of financial scams. These can come in the form of text messages, phone calls, postal letters and email, and usually involve a unauthorised third party trying to gain access to your bank account. This page will enlighten you as to the telltale signs that separate these bogus communications for bonafide ones, particularly in connection with your student loan.
SCAM ALERT 19 FEBRUARY 2019: Students are receiving emails stating that they are entitled to receive a grant from the Department for Education and asking you to fill in sensitive financial information in order to receive the award. DO NOT CLICK ON ANY OF THE LINKS OR FILL IN ANY OF THE INFORMATION. These emails look as if they are coming from the University of Birmingham but are in fact from email addresses at other universities. If you have clicked on the links in the email please contact IT Services (0121 414 7171). If you have provided them with your bank details you should contact your bank as soon as possible.
Student loan/bank scams
These are particularly prevalent at the start of each term, just in advance of any due payments. Student Finance England (SFE) will never ask you to confirm your bank account details or verify your account via email, so if you receive such a request you should forward it to their fraud team for investigation. If you do fall victim to such as scam, as soon as you realise this you should let SFE know and immediately change all your account settings and passwords. Sometimes scams are easy to spot due to misspellings, poor punctuation or bad grammar, but they are getting much more sophisticated these days. SFE produce their own Guidance on on how to avoid a scam.
Scammers may operate similiar schemes pretending to be your bank or credit card company in order to obtain your financial details and commit fraud on your accounts, so please be aware.
Fraudsters impersonating the University
This has been known to happen at some other universities in the UK. Scammers again send an email to students, some of which may owe the University money - for example for tuition or accommodation fees. The email explains how the University's bank account details have changed and all payments should now be made to a different account. Again, these can look genuine, so if you are in any doubt, please contact the University for clarification.
Fraudsters impersonating the UK Border Agency
International students in the UK continue to be targetted by a particular telephone scam, so please be aware. A caller may contact you to explain that there is a problem with your current visa (or your application for a new one) - and that you therefore need to pay a fine. They will ask for your credit card details over the phone, and then use this information to run up a large debt on your account. You should not give them your credit card details under any circumstances.
Other common scams
These usually come in the form of emails which appear too good to be true. For example, you have just won a large sum of money in a lottery or prize draw, or you've just landed your dream job and just need to provide your bank details so the company concerned can make an immediate payment to you. Think carefully, did you actually enter that draw, or apply for that job?
Also, if someone is offering you a deal whereby they want to transfer money through your account from overseas or from a dead relative then this is something to steer well clear of as well.
Sometimes you may even receive an email appearing to be from one of your family and friends, but if it seems brief and 'bland' and has a weblink in it perhaps it would be best just to check with them directly to make sure they did actually send it to you, and that their email account has not been compromised?
You may also be contacted by what seems like a potential employer, and asked to ring a number back for details about a specific vacancy. In this case, the number concerned may be a higher rate dialling code (0870, 09, etc) that generates money for the scammer.
Pay-day lenders and loans
A payday loan is a short term loan (usually for a period of about one month or so) that certain companies offer to people with cashflow problems. Whilst there is nothing dishonest in what they do, the amount of interest charged can be astronomical, and such loans can easily spiral out of control. Both the NUS and the University of Birmingham strongly advise against their use. If you are struggling financially why not check to see if you might be eligible for a non-repayable Student Hardship Fund payment from us instead?
Financial safety on social networks
- Be careful about posting (or making visible) your email address, phone number, address, date of birth and even any customer reference numbers on any online sites
- Be cautious about who you befriend online. Social bots and phishers could be trying to steal your personal information
- Stay up-to-date with any changes to your social network's security and privacy settings as these can change over time, making your personal details potentially much more widely available than you previously thought
- Remember social networks are public resources, so always consider how others may view and use the information contained on your profile