Students across Britain are being warned to stay safe online after a spate of phishing e-mails from fraudsters aimed at stealing their first loan payment.
Half-a-million students are set to start university in the coming weeks, while those in their second and final years will also return, and cunning scammers know thousands of pounds will soon hit most of their accounts.
The fraudulent emails usually claim that failure to respond with personal information updates will see students lose or delay their September finance payment, a nightmare scenario for most.
Student target: Fraudsters know that students are set to have large sums enter their accounts in the coming weeks for the new academic year
The wave of phishing e-mails and text messages have been reported to the Student Loans Company, which is warning people not to fall victim.
The e-mail often purports to be from Student Finance England with branding images and comes with an embedded link in the text.
However, it is likely these contain vicious malware which can be used to access bank accounts online to swipe cash.
The SLC is warning students not to disclose any details, respond to the e-mails or click the link.
Fiona Innes, head of counter fraud services at the SLC, said: ‘Online fraudsters are aware that freshers are starting university for the first time next month and are targeting them, continuing students and their sponsors with emails and texts requesting personal and banking details to access their finance.
‘We have had reports of this phishing e-mail already. Phishing e-mails are sent in batches so there will be more in circulation.
‘We want to remind customers that we will never request a customer’s personal or banking details by e-mail or text message.
‘We want to remind students to stay vigilant with the details they provide online and to be mindful of the personal information about themselves they post online and on social media too.’
The SLC is asking anyone who received a scam e-mail about student finance to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org as it helps them close phony websites down and stop other students being caught out.
Since 2012/13, the SLC claims its counter fraud services have prevented fraud losses totalling £65million.
Signs of phony contact is the fact many are unlikely to contain a student’s first and last name, commonly starting: dear student.
Many also have misspelling, poor punctuation and grammar, while some contact says ‘failure to respond in 24 hours will result in your account being closed.’
These types of messages, SLC says, are designed to convey a sense of urgency to prompt a quick response.
It adds that SLC and SFE will never ask students to confirm their bank details or log-in information by e-mail.
Scammers often target specific groups who they know are more likely to have big sums in their bank accounts.
For example, This is Money revealed in the past how farmers are targeted when EU payouts enter accounts each December.