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How to protect yourself from student scams

Being scammed is stressful, and it could have a big impact on your student budget. We explore how you can protect yourself.

We have a little task for you: think about what a scam victim looks like.

Your mind has probably conjured up the image of an older person. But even if you’re a young and savvy web whizz, you need to have your wits about you - there’s a range of nasty but smart scams targeted specifically at younger people.

Many of them are successful, too. In fact, the fraud protection service Cifas recorded a 30% increase in identity theft cases affecting under-21s between 2016 and 2017. To add to this, more than half of 18-24 year olds are unlikely to report a scam, according to Citizens Advice.

It’s rubbish that there are people out there who are trying to get their hands on your student loan, but our advice can help you protect yourself.

What is a scam?

A scam is a criminal offence under the Fraud Act. It’s where someone tries to steal something from you, or defraud you.

Scams can appear in several different guises. They can come through your letterbox, phone, email inbox, social media accounts… basically, scammers will use any possible means to get their grubby hands on your money and/or personal info.

Important! Report anything you think is a scam to Action Fraud, even if you don’t personally fall victim. More on this below.

Examples of student scams

If you grew up with the internet, you may think you’re impervious to scams. You probably know, for example, not to wire money to a stranger to guarantee your £10 million lottery winnings.

Scammers know this, but that doesn’t mean they give up. Instead, they get smart, with a range of specific scams designed to trigger young people’s potential concerns.

Must-read! Take a look at Top student scams: spot and stop them, to help ensure you’re not outwitted.

How do I spot a scam?

While there are many different scamming methods and ploys, there are a few key telltale signs that someone is trying to dupe you.
  • You’re contacted out of the blue.
  • A deal that sounds too good to be true.
  • You’re asked for personal details.
  • You’re asked to make an immediate decision.
  • Glaring grammatical or spelling mistakes.
  • You’re asked to keep something on the low.
  • No contact details are given to you, or - at best - just a mobile phone number or PO Box address.
It’s also worth knowing how to avoid falling victim to phishing scams, which are often quite sophisticated emails that look like they’re from legitimate companies. To find out how to uncover the truth, take a look at the Which? Computing guide on how to spot a phishing scam.

How do I report a scam?

We can’t stress the importance of reporting a scam enough. Remember that a scam is a criminal offence, and you should report anything you think is a scam to Action Fraud, even if you don’t personally fall victim.

If you don’t report a scam, it’s less likely to be shut down - and more people will lose their money.

You shouldn’t always just report a scam to Action Fraud, though. If you receive a scam email, you need to tell the internet service provider (ISP) that was used to send you the email (e.g. Google for Gmail addresses) - the ISP can then close the account that sent the email. And if you receive a scam email that pretends to be from a company, let the genuine company know.

One to add to your reading list: this Which? Consumer Rights article on how to report a scam clearly and quickly explains how to report a whole range of scams.

Can I get my money back if I’ve been scammed?

It really depends. If you’ve transferred cash using a debit card, you can ask your bank to get your money back through the chargeback scheme. A disappointing caveat, though, is that there’s no guarantee you’ll see that money again.

If you’ve transferred money using a money transfer wire service, such as MoneyGram, PayPoint or Western Union, it’s going to be even harder to get it back.

Important! A good rule to follow is to never bank transfer money to anyone unless you know and trust them. If you end up directly transferring money to a scammer, there’s still a chance you’ll get your money back - but, again, there's no guarantee.

We won’t cover every scenario here - if you have been scammed, find out where you stand by reading How to get your money back after a scam.

Your consumer rights with scams

Like Love Island and The X Factor, scams are here to stay for the foreseeable future. And here at Which? HQ we understand how easy it is to fall prey to a scam and how stressful it can be.

We’d really recommend taking a look through the Which? Consumer Rights scams guides. They’ll tell you everything you need to know about protecting yourself, and improve your chances of getting your money back if a scam gets past you.

Next up… You’ll lower your chances of being duped if you look after your personal data properly, so have a quick read of our guide on staying safe online.

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