New mobile phone scam targets students

Intro WeekThe National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) has recently made us aware of a suspected mobile phone fraud targeting students across the UK. We’re letting you know the details of this fraud so you can be on your guard and know what to look out for if you are contacted by the scammers.

The essence of the fraud is this. You will be offered a cash incentive to take out a mobile phone contract in your name. Typically, the contract will be with a major UK network and will be for a high-quality smartphone over a period of eighteen months to two years. However, the idea is not that you keep the phone for yourself, but rather that it will be used by a private company (hence the cash incentive to encourage you to take part). Once you receive the new smartphone, you will be asked to forward it and the SIM card on to the private company so they can start using it. In return you will receive a modest monthly income. In reality, there is no monthly income. Instead, the private company will use the phone to run up massive bills in your name which, the phone company will then chase you to pay. In short, you will end up running a significant amount of debt.

As well as getting you to take out the phone contract, the scammers will also more than likely ask for details of your bank account, credit or debit cards and personal circumstances. Not only does divulging this sort of information make it easier for scammers such as these to take your money, it can make you susceptible to identity fraud too. If you are ever asked for private information, you should always make sure that the request is from a reliable source before you give it out.

If you believe you might have been caught out by this scam or become a victim of identity theft then please visit the Student Advice Centre for help and guidance. You can find the Advice Centre on Level 3 of the Students’ Union Building. Alternatively you can visit SSiD, also on level 3, where a member of the team will be able to assist you with your concerns.

The NMPCU is currently conducting an investigation into those engaged in fraudulent activity. If you have been affected, you should contact them as soon as possible to assist with the investigation. Read the NMPCU’s full statement and find out how to contact them on the NMPCU website.

The major UK mobile phone networks and other industry partners have also been made aware of the situation and will be able to support you if you have been affected.

Further advice from the NMPCU

If you think you have been affected:

  • Inform your bank or building society as soon as possible.
  • Change financial and email account passwords and security questions. Particular care should be taken to close any compromised accounts. Also ensure that other family members do not use account passwords such as your mother's maiden name, these should also be changed.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report. This will identify searches conducted by a lender, date of search, type of application and which credit accounts are set up in your name. You can contact any one of the three credit reference agencies and receive support in resolving credit report problems caused by identity fraud: Callcredit, Equifax, Experian.
  • Look at your credit report closely. If you find entries from organisations you don't normally deal with, contact them immediately.

How to protect yourself from scams:

  • Never divulge private information data in response to a personal approach, email, text, letter or phone call unless you are certain that the request is from a reliable source.
  • Check your statements carefully and report anything suspicious to the bank, financial or mobile service provider concerned.
  • The three credit reference agencies offer a credit report checking service to alert you to any key changes on your credit file that could indicate potential fraudulent activity: Callcredit, Equifax, Experian.
  • Don't throw away entire bills, receipts, credit-card or debit-card slips, bank statements or even unwanted post in your name. Destroy unwanted documents, preferably by using a shredder.
  • Keep your personal documents in a safe place, preferably in a locked drawer or cabinet at home.
  • Change passwords regularly.