UK universities are warning students to be wary of unsolicited emails, especially those requesting personal information, after several students were tricked into giving out their bank details recently.
According to MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE.com), a personal finance website, there has been a spate of cases where students unwittingly provided their details after receiving an email that was supposedly from their university, offering them a government bursary.
Instead, when the students checked their bank accounts, they found that fraudsters had cleaned them out, with some losing out on hundreds of pounds.
Students heading to university are being hit by a bursary ‘phishing’ scam https://t.co/YlwHFLb6Ic Please RT & warn pic.twitter.com/vksqJtGVhw
— Money Saving Expert (@MoneySavingExp) September 19, 2016
The website said several students from Queen Mary University London (QMUL) had been hit by the scam, while the University of Glasgow was aware of it and has informed students to disregard such emails.
Speaking to MSE.com, the mother of one of the scam’s victims said it was “really easy to fall for”, as it was currently the time of year when students like her daughter would normally receive their bursaries from universities.
Targets of the scam would typically receive emails with a link to an online form, where students are asked to submit their personal and banking details, as well as National Insurance and driver’s licence numbers, which puts them at risk of not only having their money stolen, but their identities as well.
The con job has been particularly successful due to how convincing it looks, using email addresses similar to the university’s, while the online form usually includes the university logo and font.
Students warned of new ‘phishing’ scam https://t.co/80fOnJ6GWO
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) September 20, 2016
A QMUL spokesperson told MSE.com that the university monitors its systems to prevent and detect breaches, and as far as it knew, there was no evidence that any system had been compromised.
“A message was sent to all students warning them about the scam and providing them with advice on how they can protect themselves online.
“Our student-focused websites are displaying a message about phishing emails, along with details of further support we can offer, including a cyber security training course which is available to all staff and students. We are investigating locally, and have not informed the police,” they added.
Watch out for a phishing email scam targeting students at the mo claiming that they have been awarded an educational grant #FraudAlert
— Solent University (@solentofficial) June 9, 2016
Meanwhile, the University of Glasgow said it was looking into the issue.
A university spokesperson said: “As soon as we became aware of this scam we advised students to ignore the email. The university would never ask for personal banking information in this way and we urge all of our students to exercise caution when online.”
Action Centre, the national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre, has been warning students about this threat since May this year.
The website also offers tips on how students can protect themselves from being scammed:
- Do not click on any links or open attachments contained within unsolicited emails.
- Do not reply to scam emails or contact the senders in any way.
- If an email appears to have come from a person or organisation you know of but the message is unexpected or unusual, contact them directly via another method to confirm that they sent you the email.
- If you receive an email which asks you to login to an online account via a link provided in the email, instead of clicking on the link, open your browser and go directly to the company’s website yourself.
- If you have clicked on a link in the email, do not supply any information on the website that may open.
- If you think you may have compromised the safety of your bank details and/or have lost money due to fraudulent misuse of your cards, you should immediately contact your bank, and report it to Action Fraud.
Image via Unsplash
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