Scamwatch: University students targeted

Jess Bown
University students in lounge
University students in lounge

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

See also: Alton Towers ticket scam

See also: Ban on pension cold calls

This week, we highlight the ways criminals try to prey on university students - especially those just starting their degrees.

How does it work?

Students need to be on their guard against a range of scams.

Earlier this month, for example, Action Fraud, the UK's fraud and cybercrime reporting service, issued an alert warning students about an email purporting to be from the Student Loans Company, but in fact designed to steal their personal details.

The message claims their accounts have been suspended due to "inaccuracy" and "incomplete student information", but anyone who clicks on the link and enters their details is in danger of being defrauded.

Other scams aimed at students include those run by fake landlords who claim the young people have to pay a deposit or a "tenant verification fee" to secure a property before looking round it and signing a rental contract.

Freshers, or first-year students, are also particularly susceptible to events hoaxes.

These are often advertised on social media in a bid to trick students into buying tickets for bogus parties and events supposedly affiliated with their university or student union.

How can I avoid being caught out?

You should never buy a ticket for a freshers' event you spot on social media before checking it is legitimate by visiting your university or student union website.

And you should cut off all contact with any landlord who requests money upfront before offering a viewing of the property; deposits are only standard once you have visited it and signed a contract.

When it comes to correspondence from the Student Loans Company, meanwhile, emails and letters should be addressed to you personally, rather than to a generic "student".

If you have any doubts, you can always double check by calling 0300 100 0607.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

You should report any dodgy events you see advertised on social media to both your university and the site on which you spot them.

If, on the other hand, you get caught up with a dodgy landlord, you should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

The chances of you getting any money lost through either scam back are slim, but at least you can help bring the fraudsters to justice and prevent others being taken in.

Those fooled by fake Student Loans Company emails should contact their banks immediately to secure their accounts.