Scams and Fraud

Find out how to stay safe and scam-aware

One of the most important things to remember when avoiding scams is that if an offer sounds too good to be true then it probably isn't true. The other key consideration when it comes to fraud is that prevention is preferable to cure.

It's really easy to keep your money safe; it's really difficult to get it back once the fraud has occurred. 

On that note, here are a few more common scams and frauds that specifically target students and our tips on how you can avoid them. For a more comprehensive list of 15 scams commonly used against students, you can visit SaveTheStudent!

If you have any questions or concerns about the information on this page or if you think that you may have been the victim of fraud, please get in contact with us

You can also visit our dedicated pages for more information on phishing and Staying cyber safe.

Fee payment scams

How it works

There are a few ways in which fraudsters might contact you. These include:

  • A fake email that appears to be from Royal Holloway, requesting fee payments or telling you about an apparent change in Royal Holloway’s bank details.

  • Fraudsters offer to pay fees on a your behalf, often promising a discount if you transfer money to them instead of paying the university. In some instances, the fees are then paid by the criminals to the university and the receipts shown to you. However, in these instances the criminals will very often have used stolen credit cards to make the payments. When these are subsequently rejected by the university you will have lost your money and still be liable to pay your fees. 

How to stay safe 

  • Always be wary of anyone offering to make a fee payment on your behalf, or requests for large upfront payments which would lead to a discount.

  • Stay away from companies offering payment services that are not endorsed by Royal Holloway. Follow the guidance here on how to pay your fees via safe, accepted means.

  • Remember that in many instances, the University will not accept payments via a third party (exceptions above) so be sure to contact us before paying your fees via someone else.

  • Never share personal, banking or financial information with anyone who cannot be verified by Royal Holloway.

  • If you're not sure if an email or communication has come from Royal Holloway or one of our trusted partners then get in contact with us directly and we'd be happy to confirm this before you make any payment.

Accommodation Scams

How it works 

  • Criminals advertise a property that belongs to someone else or in some cases doesn’t even exist.

  • They then make excuses as to why it cannot be viewed.

  • They ask for a deposit up front, promising to forward on the keys or using pressure tactics to make you send money to secure the property.

How to stay safe

  • Only use reputable rental agents and services verified by our Students' Union.

  • Always view a property inside and out before entering into any agreement or paying any money.

  • Ask to see documents that are legally required such as gas safety or energy performance certificates. The absence of these should raise concerns.

  • Check the rent offered is reasonable for the area – fraudsters may be trying to tempt you to part with your cash by offering what sounds like a good deal.

Fraudsters pretending to be officials

How it works

There are many common scams aimed at students from both the UK and overseas where fraudsters pretend to be government or bank officials. Here are a few examples: 

  • You get contacted via email, phone call or social media by the HMRC saying that you're due a tax rebate (refund). Links provided will then either take you to a website that puts your personal data at risk or you are otherwise asked to provide information that puts your bank account at risk.

  • You are contacted by someone claiming to be from the police, similar crime prevention organisation or even your bank. They tell you your funds are at risk (they'll use lots of different reasons to convince you of this)  and that if you don't move them to a different bank account now they'll be stolen. In fact, the account you're transferring your money to is the one at risk as it's controlled by criminals who will withdraw your money as soon as you've moved it. 

Particularly common for international students

  • You get contacted by a supposed UK government agency and told you owe an immigration tax or other payment related to your visa. If you don't make payment immediately, your visa will be cancelled. They will pressure you into making a payment for a false reason - there is no 'immigration tax' and all the fees you needed to pay for your visa were paid when you first made the application. The UKVI or any other government department will never ask for additional payments in regards your visa after its been granted.

  • You are contacted by authorities from your own country very often pretending to be the police. They will state that you are being investigated for money laundering or a similar crime. They will convince you that the only way to clear your name is either to move your money to an account that is controlled by the criminals or otherwise provide them with access to your account. 


How to stay safe

  • Government departments are very unlikely to call you or contact you via social media. They will most commonly write to you via post or email. If they do email you, check the address the email is being sent from. Does it look like an official email address? If you search for it on Google does it appear on official government sites or have other people raised concerns about it? Check the spelling and format of any written communication. Does it read like it was written by someone in authority? You'll often find lots of spelling mistakes and typos in these kind of communications from fraudsters. 

  • Don't be pressured into paying! It's a common tactic by these criminals to make you feel unsafe or insecure and to use these emotions to lead you into making a bad decision. A great way to give yourself a little bit of time to think and to verify who you are talking to is really who they claim to be, is to hang up the phone and call the organisation back on the number listed on their website (don't accept a number or website provided by the person who called). Any legitimate organisation will be happy for you to do this. 

  • Remember that if your bank believes the safety of your account has been compromised, they'll simply block any transactions out of it, keeping your money securely in your account. Alternatively you can contact them yourself on a number listed on their official website and ask to put a block on money leaving the account. You certainly don't need to move your money anywhere else to keep it safe! 

  • Government departments including the police will never ask for information that would allow them to access your bank account.

  • If you're not sure if a request for money or information is genuine then come and have a chat with us! Sometimes another pair of eyes is all you need to help spot the scam. 

Money Mules

How it works

Becoming a 'Money Mule' usually means that you are both a victim and perpetrator of fraud!  Read more about what money mules are and how you can avoid this scam.

  • The ‘money mule’ fraud involves being paid by criminals to move money (usually proceeds from crime) on their behalf.

  • You receive the money and are asked to withdraw cash or transfer it to another account.

  • This is often presented as 'easy' or 'risk free' money when in fact these actions are illegal.

  • If found guilty of allowing someone to use your account for fraud this could result in a criminal record and up to 14 years in prison.

  • If you get caught up in this you are likely to have problems with your credit score and you might be unable to open a bank account in the future, severely limiting your options in life.

  • It’s not uncommon for money mules to become the victims of fraud from the very criminals that they are assisting.

How to stay safe

  • Always be wary of offers of ‘easy money’.

  • Don't ever store money for people even on a temporary basis.

  • Don't give up details that would allow someone to transfer money on your behalf.

Student Case Studies

The below are real life examples of frauds and scams that were perpetrated again Royal Holloway students in 2023. Names and any other details that could allow identification of the individual have been removed to ensure that they remain anonymous. 


Case Study 1 

Student X was looking for a private rental to move into for the new academic year. As part of their search, they had signed up to various sites that shared personal data with other users and allowed other users to contact them. Student X was contacted via social media by an individual posing as a landlord. They offered Student X a room in a shared house near campus which seemed very reasonable. Student X was unable to view the property right away but was informed that they must pay a deposit + 1st month rent to secure the room which they did. Student X then lost contact with the individual claiming to be a landlord and so decided to visit the property itself. When they spoke to the individuals living at the property they were told that the person that had contacted them via social media was not the landlord who themselves lived in the nearby area. Student X spoke with the genuine landlord who was able to provide evidence that they did indeed own the property. Student X lost approximately £1000 and was left with no accommodation. 

What could Student X have done differently? 

  • Be very careful about individuals who contact you directly via social media.

  • Where possible, always ask to view the inside of the property before making a payment. If you aren't able to, perhaps a friend or relative could do it on your behalf.

  • If you're still unsure, ask for evidence that would indicate that the person you are talking to owns the property (see above).

  • Don't be pressured into handing over money.


Case Study 2

Student Y needed to transfer money from overseas to help them meet their costs of study. Rather than go via a bank or other reputable organisation, they'd heard about a service that was available via a social media app where you could get much better exchange rates. Student Y chose to approach the person(s) operating this service and sent several thousand pounds in foreign currency via the social media platform itself to this person's digital wallet. The equivalent funds in GBP were then supposed to be sent to to their account but the fraudsters never sent the funds onwards. The student lost all of their money. 


What could Student Y have done differently? 

  • Be very careful about services, deals or promotions run across social media.

  • Only use reputable high street banks or other well known services i.e. Convera (Western Union) to transfer funds internationally.

  • If a deal sounds too good to be true (like amazing currency exchange rates) then it probably isn't true.

  • Be aware of the rules and laws around transferring and receiving foreign currency.


Case Study 3 

Student Z was contacted by fraudsters claiming to be the police. They were told that they were being investigated for financial crimes including money laundering. In order to clear their name, Student Z was told that they must provide the police with access to their bank account so that they could investigate further. As soon as the fraudsters had gained access to the account, they removed all the funds and despite Student Z reporting this fact to the real authorities, they were not able to recover the stolen money. 


What could Student Z have done differently? 

  • The police or other authorities will never contact you and ask for information that allows them to access your bank account.

  • If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the police (or any other law enforcement agency) then ask them for information that would allow you to identify them, then politely state that you will be hanging up the call and call them back on a phone number listed on an official webpage.

  • Come and speak to us before you give away any information that would put your money in danger.


If you've been sent here by one of our QR codes around campus, we're sorry to say that there is no free money! We hope these pages have helped increase your awareness and knowledge around what types of scams are out there and how to stop them.

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