New scam targets students in the UK

Piggy BankOur colleagues at another institution have recently alerted us to a new scam targeting students in the UK. Though there have been no instances of this scam yet at the University of Sheffield, we ask you to be aware of of the details and to be on your guard against any suspicious calls are interactions.

Students who live in university accommodation are the primary targets of this scam. It works as follows: you receive a phone call from a stranger who knows your name, phone number and, often, which student accommodation you live in. The stranger will then inform you, in a convincing and plausible way, that they work in finance, stock-broking or similar, and they are looking for small investments.

The stranger will offer you the opportunity to invest a sum of money, for example £750, in return for paying of the remainder of your accommodation fees. They will tell you that you don't need to pay anything until you are satisfied your accommodation fees have been paid and will encourage you to check that the payment has been made.

They will ask you to provide details of how you pay your accommodation fees (for example, online login details) to allow the transaction to go ahead. Once they have these, they will login and pay your fees for you - with a stolen or fraudulent credit card. The idea is that, in the days and weeks before the bank notifies the University of the fraudulent payments, you will have checked and seen that your fees have been paid, and then handed over in cash the original investment sum that you agreed with the fraudster.

There have also been reports of students being approached in person and offered this "opportunity". In this scenario, the stranger usually says that they have a contact in Student Finance who can get discounts of up to 50% on accommodation fees. During the sales pitch, the stranger says that they work with other students at this and other universities, and they will ask you to give contact details of friends who might also "benefit" from their scheme. This may explain how they are getting the contact details for the other part of the scam mentioned above.

The scam has been reported to the police and they are investigating. If you ever have any suspicious phone calls or encounters and think you might be the target of fraud, please alert either SSiD or the Financial Support Team immediately.