What is a Scam?

A scam is a scheme which tries to steal money, personal information or data from a person or organisation. Scammers can target you via post, telephone, email, text message, a website or even a visit to your home. Some examples of scams are:

  • Adverts offering ‘Get Rich Quick’ schemes
  • Phone calls, emails or text messages pretending to be from your bank, asking you to move your money or provide your personal details
  • Emails which appear to be from a legitimate source, such as PayPal, Apple or Amazon
  • Emails or automated calls pretending to be from a government department, commonly the Home Office or HM Revenue and Customs
  • Fake websites selling event tickets or other goods

'Money Mule' Scams

Students are increasingly being targeted by criminal groups to help cover up illegal activity, so make sure to also be on the alert for 'money mule' scams. A 'money mule' is someone who receives cash into their bank account and then passes it on to others, usually keeping some of the money for themselves. Organised crime groups sometimes use 'money mules' for money laundering - concealing the proceeds from criminal activity behind layers of legitimate bank accounts.

To avoid being recruited as a 'money mule', look out for suspicious job adverts that offer the chance to earn quick and easy money, don't sign up for any opportunity without undertaking proper research, and don't share your bank and personal details with anyone that you don't know or trust.

You can find more information about 'money mule' scams on the UCL website.

How to Spot a Scam

Scams can be very sophisticated and therefore sometimes hard to spot, but it’s still always important to keep an eye out for things which don’t seem quite right. Some warning signs to look out for are:

  • If something seems too good to be true, it probably is
  • If you’re contacted by someone you don’t know asking for your bank details or personal information
  • If a job advert offers the chance to earn quick and easy money
  • If you’re being asked to respond to something or pay money quickly
  • If you’re being emailed from a suspicious email address – scammers will not be able to send messages from a real domain name, so the email addresses will likely be filled with random letters or numbers

How to Protect Yourself from Scams

Here are some easy things you can do to protect yourself from scams:

  • Create strong passwords for internet sites and try not to use the same password for more than one account
  • Make sure your antivirus software if up to date
  • Never give your money or personal details to anyone you don’t know or someone you have only met online
  • Before you buy anything, check the company or website you are using
  • Don’t be rushed into transferring money or making any quick decisions
  • Look out for suspicious emails using these tips from the National Protective Security Authority

How to Report a Scam

If you are not sure if an offer is legitimate, or you think you have been a victim of a scam, you contact UCL’s Crime Prevention and Personal Safety Adviser Sophie Bimson for advice and support. You can contact Sophie by email on [email protected]

You can also report scams to Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud. You can also contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if you would like any further advice.  You should also let your bank know immediately if you have made a payment to a scammer or given your bank details to anyone.

If you require emotional support after being the victim of a scam, Victim Support has a free, confidential helpline you can contact.