Advice on avoiding scams

Universities in the UK are aware that sometimes criminals target international students by demanding money for pretend visa problems.

These criminals will try to take money from you and will want you to panic or feel scared by saying you need to pay a ‘fine’ for an immigration problem or issue in your home country. 

They may threaten you with deportation from the UK or cancellation of your visa unless you provide personal or financial information or unless you pay the fine.



The video is also available in Mandarin:



What is a scam?

A scam is a scheme designed to cheat you out of your money.  The person carrying out the scam is a criminal known as a “scammer” or “fraudster”.

You can be targeted by a scam by:

  • post (a letter)
  • telephone
  • email
  • text message
  • website
  • a visit to your home.

How do I know if I am being scammed?

  • If somebody you don’t know contacts you asking for money
  • If you are told you have won the lottery and you’ve never heard of the lottery or you didn’t buy a ticket
  • If they ask you to send them money in advance to claim a prize
  • If you are being asked for your bank account details or for personal information
  • If the person gives you a mobile number or PO Box number as their contact details
  • If they have some of your personal information
  • If they say they are from a bank, UKVI or government agency in your own country
  • If they send photos of their ‘‘official identification’’ (for example an ID card)
  • If they use dramatic and frightening phrases such as ‘deportation,’ ‘serious problems with your visa’ or that you will be ‘arrested’ and are in trouble if you don’t respond now.
  • If they ask for a money payment that is hard to trace such as through Western Union, MoneyGram, in cash or in large volumes of iTunes gift cards - however sometimes it may be by bank transfer or by you providing your banking details
  • If they keep sending you lots of messages or phone calls - this is to keep you worried.

What should I do if I think I am being scammed?

  • Do not panic!
  • Do not give anyone personal information.
  • Do not confirm any information about yourself.
  • Do not give your bank account or credit card details, PIN numbers or private information.
  • If you are telephoned, ask for a number to ring them back on and end the phone call.
  • If it is an email, text or letter do not respond to it.
  • Always try to check whether the email, text or letter is genuine. 
  • Don't engage in this criminal activity and report it immediately.

If this happens to you, you should:

  • Report the incident to the International Student Team (IST) as soon as possible.
  • When you come to see the International Student Team (IST) bring all the details such as the email or text or information about a call.
  • You can also report the incident to the Police.
  • If you wish you can also report the matter online to Action Fraud.

What if I have already transferred money?

Types of scam

Pretending to be from UKVI

  • A student will get a phone call or an email from someone pretending to be from the Home Office (UKVI).
  • They may know personal details such as your full name, passport number and postcode.
  • The number may appear to match a genuine number such as the Home Office one (020 7035 4848) and you may be asked to verify on the Home Office website, where the number may appear.
  • They will tell you that there is a problem with your visa and that to stop you being reported to the police, who will detain or deport you and that you must pay a fine as soon as possible.  This will often be a lot of money.

Pretending to be a law enforcement (police) or embassy official from your home country

  • They will pretend to be a police officer or embassy official from your home country.
  • They will tell you that criminal action is being taken against you, or that there is some other sort of problem in your home country.
  • They will pretend to transfer your call to someone else (such as the local police) or give you a phone number to call.
  • The fraudsters will ask for your personal details, and will ask you to move money to ’safe accounts’ or demand a ’fine’ be paid in order to prevent further action such as deportation (of you or your family) or being put in prison.


  • Phishing (pronounced ‘fishing’) is an email that pretends to be from a real place but asks you to share personal or financial information;
  • These can sometimes be easy to spot because of strange logos and bad spelling and grammar, but they can be very well disguised.
  • Phishing emails will usually include a link that may look real but if you click on it, it will take you to a fake website where criminals will have access to any information that you enter.
  • If you receive an email that asks you to share personal information and are not sure whether it is real, do not follow it. Only use websites you know and trust.

Pretending to a National Insurance (NI) Administrator

  • You may receive a pre-recorded call from someone saying your NI number has been compromised and if you don't cooperate you will be charged.
  • A call from someone asking you to transfer all your money to a "safety guard wallet bank account" and that you will get the money back once you are issued a new NI number. 
  • If you receive a phone call from someone regarding this do not transfer your money to anyone under any circumstances and contact the police immediately to report it. 

Further Information

If you want more information you can go to the following websites Home Office or UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs), or see the British Council’s creating confidence leaflet for some useful tips on making your time studying at Birmingham safe and enjoyable.

If you would like further support please contact Guild Advice, your School’s Welfare Officer, or Mental Health & Wellbeing Services with your queries. 


Professional Services