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How phone scammers are targeting international students in the UK

Here's what to do if you receive a fraudulent call. Source: shutterstock.com

International students in the UK, listen up: phone scammers have you on their radar. Posing as Home Office agents, these impostors are allegedly scamming money off students by accusing them of immigration abuses and demanding payments.

Here’s a brief explainer on their modus operandi and what to do if you receive the call:

The phone calls will look like they’re being made from a number that appears to be the Home Office or UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).

The council said on its website that the perpetrator behind the call will then demand payment for non-existent “visa problems”.

On microblogging site Twitter, the council pointed out that it was not usual practice for any of its agents to contact students over the phone for money.

“We’re getting reports of intl students getting scam calls for supposed immigration abuse issues,” it said in a follow-up tweet.

“Scammers sound v professional, look like they’re calling from a Home Office number & are demanding money.”

If you receive a suspected fraudulent phone call, the UKCISA advises never to send any payment over the phone as neither the Home Office or UKCISA issue fines. Do not confirm any information the fraudulent callers have.

Simply tell them you know they are frauds and you will report them to the police, or just hang up. 

After the call, you should report the event to your international student adviser at your institution, as well as report the incident to the Home Office and Action Fraud UK. You can also share their experience on the Who Calls Me Website to help other potential victims.

It is also important to remember never to give passwords or sensitive information over the phone. Calls can be recorded, so if you reveal bank details or passwords, these can be used to commit further fraud against you.

Speaking to The PIE News, UKCISA chief executive Dominic Scott said the council was “very concerned” as more than half a dozen students have reported scam phone calls in the last week, and students are being advised to exercise caution when receiving phone calls.

“These things come up every year or so but the callers seem to have been very persistent this year and the calls purport to come from what looks like (but is not) a Home Office phone number,” said Scott.

There are steps you can take if you have been targeted. Source: shutterstock.com

Some universities and The University Liaison Account for the Metropolitan Police have released statements warning students about attempts at fraud and giving them advice on what to do if this happens to them.

Scott added there are fears this round of fraud also includes a privacy breach, as the callers seem to know extensive personal details about the students.

“We have reported the incidents to UKVI in case there is any possibility of a data breach as the scammers often seem to have extensive personal details.”

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