Fraud and scams

This page provides some tips on how to stay safe online, and how to avoid scams that often take place online or over the phone.

When using phones, tablets or laptops to carry out online activity, it is important to keep your personal data safe.

On this page:

Staying safe online

There a number of measures you can take to ensure you stay safe online. Below are a few examples of actions you can take to ensure you keep yourself and your personal details protected.

  • Create different passwords for internet sites and be wary about giving out personal information.
  • Include a mixture of letters and numbers in passwords, including capital letters and punctuation.
  • Try not to use the same password for more than one account. 
  • Be aware of fraud when using bank cards and credit cards to make payments online.
  • Make sure the website you are using is secure: check that the web address starts with https:// and that there is a padlock symbol in the address bar next to it.
  • Make sure your antivirus software is up to date. 
  • If you do get hacked, change your password immediately.

Scams and frauds

Be careful of email scams. In the past, there have been emails sent to students and staff from those posing to be friends asking for money because they supposedly needed help.

Check the email address carefully (often, the emails look like they have come from a friend but there is a slight variation, such as an added letter or number) and do not transfer money to anyone unless you are entirely sure the request is genuine and you know the person.

Criminals may target you online or over the phone, for example by calling you and pretending to be from an official organisation such as the UK Home Office or an education agent. They demand money and claim that if you do not pay them quickly, there will be damaging consequences.

The caller may appear to be genuine and convincing, either because they have some limited information about you (for example, your passport number, as well as your phone number and name) or because they appear to be calling from a legitimate phone number.

If you receive such a call or a similar contact, don't give the caller any personal information and do not confirm that any information they have is correct.

Remember, you should never give out your personal details to a caller as you cannot verify their identity.

If you do receive any such contact, please report this to Action Fraud on +44 (0)300 123 2040 or via their website.

Visit the Action Fraud website.

Further information for international students about scams and fraud is provided by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).

Visit the UKCISA website.

The Metropolitan Police 'Fraud and Linked Crime Online' service has put together the following series of short animations explaining the most common types of fraud:

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJA-eyVtOW4&list=PL5gcFbG9ghq5EstDSeMUow...


Find out more about different types of personal fraud, including the 'Little Book of Big Scams', a detailed resource by the Met Police.

Phone scams

According to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, nearly a third of all fraud is committed over the phone. 

This booklet from the Metropolitan Police provides useful guidance on how to avoid phone scams.

Money mules

Some scams may lead you to unknowingly become a money mule - this is someone who transfers stolen money between different countries.

According to Action Fraud, money mules are recruited by criminals to transfer illegally obtained money between different bank accounts. Money mules receive stolen funds into their account, and are then asked to withdraw and wire the money to a different account (often overseas), keeping some of the money for themselves.

Even if you’re unaware that the money you are transferring was illegally obtained, you can still be prosecuted for money laundering. 

Behaviours that put you at risk of becoming a money mule include responding to job adverts or social media posts that promise large amounts of money for very little work, and allowing an employer or someone you do not know to use your bank account to transfer money.

Remember, you should never give your financial details to someone you don’t know and trust.

The video below, issued by the London Metropolitan Police, provides more information about money mules. 

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOLiXY09OzI&list=PL5gcFbG9ghq5EstDSeMUow...

Read further guidance about money mules on the Action Fraud website.

Reporting fraud or scams

If you become aware of an IT security-related issue (for example, if you have received a suspicious email to your university email account), you can contact ISD Security by emailing isg@ucl.ac.uk or calling +44 (0)20 7679 7338 (extension 37338 on a UCL landline).

If you have become a victim of online fraud, you can report it to Action Fraud, either by using their online reporting tool or by phoning +44 (0)300 123 2040 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm).

Visit the Action Fraud website to report cyber crime.

Further information for international students about scams and fraud is provided by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).

Visit the UKCISA website.

If you require emotional support after being the victim of a scam, Victim Support has a free, confidential helpline you can contact.

Visit the Victim Support website.