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University students targeted for loans and phones: tips to stay safe

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

University students are urged to be on guard as they’re the victims of choice when it comes to stealing money and mobile phones.

Ahead of Freshers’ Week, students need to be careful when it comes to disclosing details which could see their first loan instalment pocketed by thieves.

The Student Loans Company (SLC) warns that students should think twice about clicking links in emails as they could be installing malware onto computers.

SLC’s head of counter fraud services, Fiona Innes, said: “Thousands of students are starting university in the coming weeks and fraudsters use this time to try and trick students into revealing personal details, to obtain access to the funding that is paid once they attend university.

“Freshers are particularly at risk of divulging their details as they may not be aware the SLC will never ask for personal or banking details by email or text message.

“We encourage anyone who receives a suspicious student finance email to send it to us (phishing@slc.co.uk) so that we can investigate the sites and shut them down.”

In the last two years alone, SLC’s counter fraud services team has stopped over £500,000 of student funding being stolen through phishing scams. Here’s how to stay safe:

  • Be suspicious of any requests for personal or financial information. SLC or Student Finance England (SFE) will never ask you to confirm bank details or login information by email.
  • Phishing emails are often sent in bulk and are unlikely to contain both your first and last name; they commonly start, ‘Dear Student’.
  • Check the quality of the communication – misspelling, poor punctuation and bad grammar are often tell-tale signs of phishing.
  • ‘Failure to respond in 24 hours will result in your account being closed’. These messages are designed to convey a sense of urgency to prompt a quick response.

Mobile phone theft

A separate study also revealed that a third of undergraduates are targeted by thieves while at university.

According to MoneySuperMarket, student housing has become the prime location for theft, with 7% saying they’ve been mugged while out.

The majority have had money stolen (17%), while 6% said their mobile phones were taken. But students admitted to not keeping their belongings safe (12%) while 36% said they didn’t bother locking doors when leaving their property.

And over a third (36%), don’t have contents insurance to cover losses as it’s too expensive or because they thought they wouldn’t need it.

Kevin Pratt, consumer affairs expert at MoneySuperMarket, said: “Thieves are opportunistic and will often target student areas, as they know security can be an afterthought for some residents.

“Locking doors and windows and keeping valuable items out of sight from passers-by are quick and easy ways to reduce the chance you’ll be targeted. If you live in shared accommodation, make sure you have a lock on your room door – you can’t be too careful.

“While there are a lot of things to think about when heading to university, having contents insurance should be near the top of your list. With the average cost of contents insurance sitting at £76, it’s certainly worth looking into so you can have peace of mind that your belongings are protected.”

Pratt also said parents should check whether their own contents insurance extends to protecting their child’s belongings while at university.

“It might be possible to extend the policy to include this cover, or it could be a consideration at the next renewal, when shopping around for the best policy”, he added.