Student fraud

Criminals sometimes target students through scams and online fraud. Find out what to watch out for and how to protect yourself.

On this page:

Money Mules

HM Government Free Money

Fraud is now the most likely type of crime to affect all of us, after overtaking theft.

Young people, including students, are increasingly the major victims of fraud. Fraudsters' tactics can be highly sophosticated and even the financially aware can easily be duped.

Victims don't only lose their money. They can lose their family's savings, their businesses, their trust in other people, and can impact on their mental health.

One of the most important enablers of fraud are money mules. This is where you let someone else use your bank account to send criminal money.

Fraudsters and other criminals will use lots of mule accounts to make it harder for banks and police to track them down. Most mules enabling these crimes are young.

Around 6 in 10 mules are under the age of 30. They can be recruited online and in person. By using mules, criminals try to ensure that the consequences hit the mule, instead of them. This is financial exploitation - both of the mule and of the original victim.

But mules usually get recruited because they get a cut of the stolen money. This means they are involved in the money laundering. This is a serious criminal offence, with a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison for the worst offenders.

Fraudulent messages - phishing

Students are often targeted with fraudulent messages from scammers. This is called phishing. Unfortunately, some students have lost large amounts of money.

Scammers attempt to get money from you or trick you into sharing personal information. This could be:

Messages can be online, by email, social media, or telephone. They are common around the time you start university.

These messages are often disguised as communications from recognised UK organisations such as:

A scammer may pretend to be from your government or embassy or the police. They use a variety of methods which may include telling you that you or your family are under some form of criminal investigation. This could be a money-laundering investigation.

How to avoid fraudulent messages

What to do if you receive suspicious messages

If you receive any messages you're unsure about:

Payment of tuition fees scams

There are scams that offer to make tuition fee payments for you. They offer discounts or reduced exchange rates.

This may include online third-party companies offering to process online international payments to send to the University of Bristol. We have official arrangements with some third-party companies. Check which third-party companies are on this list. If the company contacting you is not on this list be very careful.

Private accommodation scams

Each year a small number of students are scammed when trying to rent private accommodation.

If you're looking for properties on the internet be careful. Don’t send money to anyone advertising properties online until you know the advertiser is genuine.

Before you start looking please read the renting safely information page and the Scams and Faud content (Office document, 26kB) factsheet. 

If you think you have been scammed

If you think you've been scammed, report it to the UK Police immediately.

Support if you have been scammed

If you have been affected by scamming and need help, support or advice, you can request wellbeing support and we will connect you to the right support or service.

Fraud Prevention Advice for Chinese Students

The Chinese community lost a significant amount of money to fraud. According to the 2022 Action Fraud data, Chinese victims within Avon and Somerset lost a staggering £1,986,521.94 to fraud.

Considering that fraud is significantly underreported, the true loss will be much higher. Avon and Somerset Police have been working with the Chinese Lantern Project to create a fraud prevention document for Chinese students. Based on the data, this has been carefully designed to include the types of fraud the Chinese community is targeted with the most. This booklet has been created in English, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese.

The PDFs for these can be found here:

Chinese-fraud-prevention-leaflet English.pdf

Chinese-fraud-prevention-leaflet Traditional-Chinese.pdf

Chinese-fraud-prevention-leaflet Simplified-Chinese.pdf