Protecting yourself from scams and fraud

Scams and fraud are the fastest growing form of crime, so you need to know how to protect yourself against them.

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Read information and guidance in Mandarin | 原来这些情况都有可能是骗局!

What is a scam?

A scam (fraud) can present itself in many ways, but it is usually designed to get hold of your money. A scammer may contact you through a phone call or email and will often ask you to transfer money

How can you spot a scam?

A scammer may call you and pretend to be from an official body such as:

  • The Home Office
  • An Embassy
  • Your bank
  • The Police
  • The University
  • Other government offices or services

The scammer will try to convince you that you need to transfer money to them, or ask you to pay in an unusual way such as through vouchers or via a transfer service. They will sometimes already know details about you and can sound very convincing, and they may try to use information they know about you to make you feel threatened.

Never provide personal information or agree to transfer money, or purchase gift cards if someone calls you. Official organisations would never ask you to do this.

Scams can also be online, and some are very sophisticated and hard to spot. Some will offer investments or services which offer great returns. When responding to job adverts or opportunities online, always do your research. 

Be careful of online posts that offer a large amount of money - a scammer might ask you to allow them to transfer money to your bank account. This is a form of fraud where the victim is set up to take the consequences and is often related to money laundering.

Never share bank or personal details with someone you don’t know and trust.

A scammer may be from your home country or in the UK. They may take advantage of the fact that you may be new to a country, and unsure about how things work. 

Financial exploitation

Scams may take the form of financial exploitation. It's important to know what this is and how to avoid it

Financial exploitation

Sextortion

‘Sextortion' is a type of online blackmail where criminals threaten to share sexual pictures, videos, or information about you. They may be trying to take money from you or force you to do something else you don’t want to.

Anyone can be a victim of sextortion, but people aged under 30 are often most at risk.

Advice to protect yourself from sexual extortion 

Latest known scams

July 2024: telephone scam

The University has received reports that Chinese students are receiving phone calls from criminals pretending to be a Chinese police officer or official. The fake police officers often present made up evidence to pressure students into giving them money. 

If you are accused of a crime you did not commit: do not share any information, and do not send any money. 

April 2024: fake job adverts

Students at a UK university have reported a seemingly legitimate website advertising jobs. Criminals cloned a legitimate company's website, in order to trick people into believing the job opportunity was real.

Criminals pretend to offer a commission-based job, but demand that students pay money into an account first in order to receive payment. Criminals may also pretend to be a 'mentor' who explains the process. 

Always check the web URL address to ensure the websites you are browsing are legitimate. Never transfer your money into someone's account who you do not trust.

April 2024: phone calls from criminals pretending to be University staff

We have been made aware of a recent scam, where fraudsters pretend to be members of University staff and call students to ask for their bank details.

What to look out for:

Phone calls from scammers pretending to be a senior member of finance. Someone claiming that they are calling as the police have advised them/are with them stating that your bank account has been compromised, or that someone has walked into a bank branch pretending to be you. They have a crime reference number and ask you to confirm they are who they are by checking LinkedIn etc.

At a time of year when this type of scam is more common - around the time when Student Finance England administers maintenance loan payments - be extra careful with sharing your details.

University staff will never call you to ask for your bank details. Occasionally, University staff may request details via your University of Sheffield email address. If you receive a phone call or email and you're not sure if it's real, hang up or do not reply. Then contact the Student Fees Team by calling  0114 222 9754 (option 3) or email: studentcustomers@sheffield.ac.uk.

  • They may use social engineering techniques to gain your trust and gain information about your financial affairs.
  • They will persuade you that your accounts are compromised and to transfer funds to an account. The call ends once all the accounts have been transferred.

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How can you protect yourself?

It is important to take steps to protect yourself from becoming a victim of a scam. 

  • Be suspicious of job adverts that offer the chance to earn quick and easy money. Stick to reputable job sites and remember that if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • Don’t sign up for any opportunity without undertaking some proper research. E.g., Google any prospective employer, do they have an online presence? Are the contact details legitimate? Is it based overseas?
  • Don’t engage with any online posts offering large sums of money.
  • Don’t accept message requests from people you don’t know, and if you receive a message with a link to click from a friend, speak to them in person before you respond.
  • Don’t share bank and personal details with anyone that you don’t know or trust – even among friends or family. If someone asks to 'borrow' your bank account, say no.
  • Only get a SIM card for your phone from a reputable supplier or network provider.
  • Always remember that if you aren’t sure about the source of the money, it could have come from criminal activity, and you could unwittingly be laundering money and end up with a criminal conviction.
  • If something doesn’t feel right about a call, or if you’re feeling pressured during a phone call, it’s always okay to end the call. If you want to check if the call was legitimate you can call them back through a known contact number from another phone.

There are some useful websites which can help you identify scams and take action to protect yourself:

University guidance for protecting yourself online

Government guidance (Google Drive, PDF file)

Money Helper

Take 5 to stop fraud

UKCISA guidance on scams

Citizens Advice Bureau


How do you report a scam?

If you wish to report a scam, go to the Action Fraud website or call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

You can also report a scam anonymously to Crimestoppers, an independent charity. Visit the Crimestoppers website, or call 0800 555 111 at any time, on any day. 


Where to find support if you’re the victim of a scam

If you do fall victim to fraud and it is affecting you, your studies or your wellbeing, you can contact our welfare adviser at support@sheffield.ac.uk

You can also contact the Student Advice Centre email: advice@sheffield.ac.uk 

Please note it is not always possible to get your money back and any financial help available from the University would be very limited.

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