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Scam warning as £2bn of student funds hit accounts soon

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Students are urged to be aware of fraud and phishing scams as £2bn of funding will be paid out for the new academic year in the coming weeks.

Freshers and returning students are warned against disclosing personal details or clicking on links in emails or text messages which could install malware.

The Student Loans Company (SLC) will be paying out more than £2bn to two million students in the coming weeks and it lists these tips to prevent them falling victim to a scam:

  • Check for misspelling, poor punctuation and bad grammar which are often tell-tale signs of phishing
  • Keep an eye out for any emails, phone calls or SMS messages you think are suspicious, especially around the time you’re expecting a payment.
  • Scam emails and text messages are often sent in bulk to many people at the same time and are unlikely to contain both your first and last name. They commonly start – ‘Dear Student’ so be on guard if you see one like this.
  • ‘Failure to respond in 24 hours will result in your account being closed’. These types of messages are designed to convey a sense of urgency to prompt a quick response.
  • Think before you click. If you receive an email or SMS that contains a link that you’re not sure of, then hover over it to check that it goes where it’s supposed to. If you’re still in any doubt don’t risk it, always go direct to the source rather than clicking on a potentially dangerous link.
  • Scammers can use a variety of methods to try get students to pay money or share their personal details, including the use of fraudulent phone calls, social posts and direct messaging on digital platforms. Always use official phone numbers, your online account and official communication channels to verify the contact you received is genuine.
  • Students should also be mindful of the information they share on social media, and elsewhere online, to help guard against identity theft. Identity theft happens when fraudsters access enough information about a person’s identity, such as their name, date of birth, customer reference number, course information or their current or previous addresses to impersonate them online and over the phone.

Over the last three years, the SLC has stopped £1.2m being lost to fraudsters from student bank accounts.

‘Prime time to trick students’

Bernice McNaught, executive director, repayments and customer compliance at the Student Loans Company, said: “It’s no surprise that at this time of year students, especially freshers, have a lot on their minds – getting to grips with classes and campuses, making new friends or exploring new surroundings.

“With so many things taking attention, it’s easy for students to drop their guard when it comes to mindfulness over online scams and fraudulent phishing. Unfortunately, digital scams, phishing and identity theft have become an everyday part of modern life, and scammers are all too aware that the three student finance payment periods in September, January and April each year are a prime time for them to try to trick students.

“Keeping money in students’ pockets is a high priority for SLC. Our counter fraud teams work to keep on top of the constantly evolving digital scams, to support students who may be in danger of losing their funds to fraudsters. The first line of defence against fraudsters is always students themselves. They can keep their account safe by following our simple tips.”

Alongside scams, students are also being hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis. With that in mind, Your Money recently noted nine ways for students to save on the new term.

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