Fraud and scams

Here are our tips on how to stay safe online and avoid scams online or over the phone.

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

On this page:

How to stay safe online

There are a number of measures you can take to ensure you keep yourself and your personal details protected online.

Online protection

  • Create different passwords for internet sites using a combination of numbers, punctuation, lowercase and capital letters
  • If you do get hacked, change your password immediately
  • Try not to use the same password for more than one account
  • Be wary about giving out personal information online
  • Stay aware of fraud when using bank cards and credit cards to make payments online
  • Check web security by making sure the web address starts with https:// and that there is a padlock symbol in the address bar next to it
  • Ensure that your antivirus software is up-to-date

How to protect yourself from scams and fraud

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. These people supposedly needed help, but were scammers. Read on to learn how to identify scams and fraud.

Email address

Check these carefully. An email may look like it has come from a friend, but there is a slight variation - an added letter or number, for example.

Do not transfer money to anyone unless you are entirely sure the request is genuine, and you know the person.

Phone calls

Criminals may target you online or over the phone 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. They may have some limited information about you (e.g. your passport number, phone number and name) or because they appear to be calling from a legitimate phone number

If you receive a phone call like this, do not give the caller any personal information and do not confirm that any information they have is correct.

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.

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

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 the different types of personal source in the Metropolitan Police's resource: 'Little Book of Big Scams'.

Money mules and money laundering

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. 

Money mule risk factors

  • Responding to job adverts or social media posts that promise large amounts of money for very little work
  • A new romantic partner suddenly asking for your financial details
  • 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.

You can read further guidance about money mules on the Action Fraud website.

Reporting fraud or scams

UCL ISD Security

If you become aware of an IT security-related issue (i.e. 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).

Action Fraud

If you have become a victim of online fraud, please report this to Action Fraud on +44 (0)300 123 2040 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm) or via the Action Fraud website.

UK Council for International Student Affairs

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

Victim Support

Should you require emotional support as the victim of a scam, Victim Support has a free, confidential helpline you can contact.