Scams affecting international students

27 November 2020

Unfortunately, international students are often the target of scams. Please read this article and learn how to stay safe.

Person holding up a phone

The UCL Security team and International Student Support want to make UCL's students, and in particular, UCL's Chinese students, aware of certain scams being conducted by criminals at the moment and how you can detect them if you receive any suspicious texts, email, or phone calls.

Tuition fee scams

Students are being approached in person and via WeChat by individuals offering to pay their university tuition fees for them at a reduced rate if they use a ‘third party facilitator’. The fee is not paid and this can put the student's university place in jeopardy. 

Many students will have a large amount of cash (once in the UK) and have to find a way of paying it to the university. Some students have said “they were unsure how to pay”, or “needed to pay quickly”, or “couldn’t deposit large cash values”. Students are often put under pressure by criminals to reach a quick agreement, for example being told that the ‘exceptional’ exchange rates on offer will expire shortly.

There is evidence of similar scams being carried out in different parts of the world. Students are advised to be wary of approaches made through the Chinese messaging service WeChat. If an offer sounds too good to be true it normally is. All fees should be paid directly by students to the university, rather than a ‘third-party intermediary’. Students should report any suspicious approaches to the university and always ask for their advice if you are unsure. 

COVID-19 scams

Coronavirus is creating a perfect environment for fraudsters to thrive. During these difficult times, it’s important that you remain vigilant. Types of COVID-19 scams can include:

A stranger offering to do shopping for you

You should always exercise caution when accepting help from an individual or allowing them access to your home in any capacity.

Fake lockdown fines

People have been receiving fake text messages stating that they have been fined for stepping outside during lockdown restrictions. Always take a moment to think before you part with your money or information.

HMRC goodwill payment

Individuals are being sent fake messages stating 'As part of the NHS promise to battle the COV-19 Virus, HMRC has issued a payment of £258 as a goodwill payment'. Do not click on the link provided.

Fake Coronavirus prevention pill

Scammers are targeting the vulnerable and elderly by offering them pills to prevent coronavirus or attempting to sell testing kits. These pills do not exist.

Scammers selling face masks and hand sanitiser

Scammers are trying to sell face masks and hand sanitisers. These never arrive after you have paid for it.

How to stay safe

  • Do not give any personal information (name, address, bank details, email or phone number) to organisations or people before verifying their credentials.
  • If a person is visiting your home or calling is claiming to be from an organisation and you are in any doubt about someone’s identity, contact the company directly using a known email or phone number to verify.
  • Be wary of any emails or texts that you weren’t expecting that claim to be from an organisation such as a bank or utility provider that have a link included. Do not click the link unless you’re confident that this is from the correct organisation.
  • Do not let anyone enter your home which you have not previously arranged a meeting with.

What to do if you think you've been contacted by a scam

You can report fraud or cyber crime to Action Fraud any time of the day or night using their online fraud reporting tool. You can also report and get advice about fraud or cyber crime by calling: 0300 123 2040

You can also contact the UCL Security team or International Student Support via askUCL.