Weekly Fraud Update from West Mercia Police – Economic Crime Unit – 09/07/2024

Posted on behalf of West Mercia Police

                                              STUDENT FRAUD WARNING

In a few weeks’ time the “A” level results will be out and all being well, many younger people are heading off to further education, whether at University or College. Whilst these are exciting times for all involved, there can be areas where new, and existing students may be vulnerable to Scammers and Fraudsters. In fact, many existing student may already searching for the next term’s accommodation.

•    Rental Fraud.
Rental fraud happens when would-be tenants are tricked into paying an upfront fee to rent a property.  

In reality, the property does not exist, has already been rented out, or has been rented to multiple victims at the same time. The victim loses the upfront fee they have paid and is not able to rent the property they thought they had secured with the payment. Rental fraudsters often target students looking for university accommodation.

Protect yourself.                                                                                                                                                                                        Do not send money to anyone advertising rental properties online until you are certain the advertiser is genuine.
•    If you need to secure accommodation in the UK from overseas, seek the help of the employer or university you are going to, or get a friend, contact or relative to check the property exists and is available.
•    Do not pay any money until you, or a reliable contact, has visited the property with an agent or the landlord.
•    Ask for copies of tenancy agreements and any safety certificates such as Gas, Electricity or HMO Licence.
•    Do not be pressurised into transferring large sums of money. Transfer funds to a bank account having obtained the details by contacting the landlord or agent directly after the above steps have been followed. Be sceptical if you’re asked to transfer any money via a money transfer service like Western Union.

Other current scams existing and potential students need to be aware include:

•    HMRC Scams
In previous years Students taking part time jobs have been at increasing risk from fake messages claiming to be from HMRC, often offering tax refunds.

Basically, these are phishing messages to glean personal and financial details off the victim.

HMRC will only ever contact customers who are due a tax refund in writing by post. They do not use telephone calls, emails or external companies in these circumstances. Anyone who receives an email claiming to be from HMRC should send it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk before deleting it permanently.


•    Student Loans 
There have also been phishing scams claiming to come from the Student Loans Company. They often target first year students and dupes them into handing over personal information to steal their identity and defraud them.
They often tell the victim their details are out of date or incomplete, and provide a link to a fake website where they can harvest their details.
If in doubt, contact the Loans Company direct using a listed number


•    Money Mules.                                                                                                                                                                                       Be very cautious of unsolicited job offers or opportunities to make easy money. These Fraudsters will pretend to offer legitimate jobs or get rich quick schemes via emails and target vulnerable groups, such as Students, who may think this is an easy way to make money.
Basically the Fraudster recruits innocent people to transfer stolen money overseas using the victim’s bank account, who will then be asked to transfer the money onwards, perhaps also being allowed to keep some money for themselves.
Please feel free to share this information with any family, friends, or neighbours that you think it may be able to assist.

Take Five to Stop Fraud

STOP: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
CHALLENGE: Could it be fake? It’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
PROTECT: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud

•    Avoid disclosing security details
•    Emails, Phone Calls and Texts may not be authentic
•    Always make direct contact with any organisation by using a genuine phone number
•    Stop and Challenge any unexpected requests
•    Protect others by reporting Fraud and Scams
If you’ve fallen for a scam,
report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk

Scam Text messages can be forwarded to 7726 to help phone providers take early action and block numbers that generate spam on their networks. You can also report Scam mobile calls by texting 7726 with the word “Call” followed by the scam caller’s phone number.

Forward Fake Emails received to report@phishing.gov.uk

If you think your bank account or personal banking details have been used fraudulently, then use the short phone number – 159 – to contact the Fraud Prevention Department of most major UK banks.