Budgeting & Banking

11 money scams to watch out for

Students are generally a savvy bunch, particularly when it comes to the online world. But that doesn't make you invincible to scams, so listen up!
online job scamsWhile most people know not to respond to emails from foreign princes who claim to offer good fortune in exchange for your bank details, scammers have definitely upped their game in recent years, making sniffing out a scam tougher than ever.

Both online and offline, fraudsters are getting increasingly sophisticated at stealing your hard earned dosh, so it's crucial to keep your wits about you at all times.

To give you a helping hand, we've highlighted nine of the most common money scams to look out for as well as how to avoid them…

Have you read our guide to protecting yourself from online hackers yet? Read it now!

11 money scams to watch out for

  1. Phishing

    Phishing

    If you've ever wondered what this term means (when it's not on a tun of Ben & Jerry's, that is) ‘phishing' is what digital thieves do when they're trying ‘phish' for your card details online.

    The disingenuous oiks will send you an email, disguised as being sent from a trusted payment source, and try to convince you to share personal details in whatever way they can.

    Often it will come with an invented back-story that claims you've been hacked and asks you to follow a link to save yourself from impending doom. The latest phishing scam we heard about was one specifically targeting students and posing as the Student Loans Company, so this particular method is well worth being prepared for!

    The bottom line is that HMRC, SLC, banks, Paypal, eBay… they'll never ask you to reveal personal details over email, so if you're asked to don't do it.

    Common ways to spot a cunning trap include emails which include links starting with “http://” instead of “https://” (secure site) or slight alterations to well-known addresses, such as “www.hot-mail.com”.

    If in doubt, report it.

Don't forget to hit the ‘report' button on your email account if you think something is a scam. That way, you can protect other (potentially less-savvy) people from falling for these traps.
  1. Money muling

    money mulingCredit: Greg Westfall – Flickr
    This might sound like a rare situation to get yourself into, but money muling scams are a lot more common than you think – and unfortunately young unsuspecting students are the perfect target.

    How it works is that you'll be approached by someone (perhaps someone you got chatting to in a bar, a neighbour or even someone you know relatively well) and they'll tell you that for some reason or other, they're unable to pay cash into their own account.

    Perhaps they're working cash in hand so can't be seen to be pay too much hard cash into their account in case they get chased for tax, so ask you to pay the cash into your own account and transfer it to them digitally, and they'll give you a 10% cut for your trouble. Simple, right?

    Wrong. Never offer to do this for someone! For a start, money laundering is illegal and if you get caught, it won't be pretty.

    Secondly, you have no idea where this money could be coming from. If it's linked to drugs or some other crime and your account is linked to the case, the police will probably come looking for you. Don't take the risk!

  2. Fake websites and products

    Fake Websites

    With it now being so much easier and more common to buy from sites abroad, this can unfortunately also make it harder to suss out which are genuine and which are just out to get some of your green.

    It's scarily common for websites to advertise products that are completely different to the products they actually sell (which is a crime in itself) or even online stores that don't exist at all, but are just sites set up to take your details and run with them.

    It can be difficult to tell the difference between copycats and the real deal, but it's a good idea to check out reviews of the store online which can point you to any negative experiences from other shoppers.

    Another safety precaution would be only to buy from a site that you're unsure of if they'll let you use Paypal, as this offers an extra layer of protection, as would using a prepaid credit card.

  3. Ticket scams

    be wary of ticket touts

    There are very few things in the world more heart breaking than getting scammed on gig tickets, so make sure you don't get taken for a ride!

    As a general rule, don't buy tickets from a tout on the street; you could end up with fake tickets or being totally ripped off on the price.

    Exercise the same caution online too as you'll also find unofficial touts on Seatwave, Viagogo, TicketSwap, Gumtree and eBay. Remember these sites are just a platform for others to sell and buy tickets on – they're not liable if you receive a fake ticket, or they never appear in the post.

    If you do buy from a smaller retailer check out the site first and pay with a credit card if at all possible. That way you can cancel the payment if the tickets don't show.

  4. Competition scams

    Holiday Scams

    This is a common trick that most people have become savvy to, but we still hear about people being ripped off by bogus comps – specially since some people make a living from entering competitions online!

    Fake Facebook competitions are extremely popular these days, and sometimes it's hard to know if it's the real deal or not. When you see thousands of people engaging in a competition from what looks like the British Airways official Facebook page, it seems pretty legit.

    Things that would indicate a fake account would be: a full stop at the end of the page name (e.g. “British Airways Official.”); no info on the ‘about' section of the page; there are no T&Cs involved; the company's official website leads you to a different Facebook page.

    Prize scams don't just happen online, but also on the phone and by post: You'll be told you've won something fabulously awesome and all you need to do is cough up a small deposit to snag your gift.

    Firstly, if you don't remember entering a competition, you probably didn't, which means you certainly can't have won it.

    No legitimate competition will ever ask you stump up cash to get your prize anyway, so steer well clear.

    Read our guide to entering competitions safely and effectively right here!
  5. Dodgy cash machines

    Dodgy Cash Machine
    Cash machine tampering has always been popular, but is getting harder to spot.

    From cameras to record your pin, to card slots that scan and record your card details – make sure you're always on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary.

    If the machine has scratches, masking tape or any sort of indication that someone's been messing around with it, don't take the risk. 

    Another tactic to watch out for is if anyone tries to speak to you whilst you're withdrawing cash. The minute you're distracted is the perfect minute for them to nab your cash on the spot – and sometimes without you even realising. It might sound a bit extreme, but it does happen.

    Take some advice from this lady…

    cash machine scam

  6. Store cards

    Store Cards
    So this one's not technically a scam, but some store cards can involve some dodgey tactics that are definitely worth watching out for.

    Reports have shown that shop assistants often encourage customers to lie about their earnings to help them meet their commission targets.

    This means you'll be given a bigger credit limit (because the store thinks you earn more than you actually do), which massively increases the chance of you piling up mountains of debt you'll be unable to pay off.

    We wouldn't really advise getting any type of store card at all, so don't be pressured into it. If you don't have the budget to spend at that moment of time, just don't spend!

    If needs must, it's a better idea to look into a 0% credit card instead – make sure to check out our guide to using credit cards first!

  7. Job advert scams

    scaredcatScammers prey on the desperate, and a penniless student looking for a job is their prime target. In fact, as much as 1 in 3 online job scams target students and fresh grads!

    Fraudsters will try to lure you in with catchy phrases such as “no experience necessary”  or offers of full time pay for part time work. The fact is – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

    Be wary of any job that asks you to ring a premium rate number (0845, 0844, 0870, 0871 etc) or anyone who wants you to make some kind of payment upfront.

    Other things to be suspicious of include a lack of physical location for the company, or a kebab shop popping up when you google street view the address on their site.

    If you think you might have been victim of a job scam, report it to Action Fraud and check out this guide for more tips on what to watch out for.

  8. Bogus landlords

    Broken-old-houseBeing cautious of accommodation scams should be a top priority for students, as unfortunately young people fresh off the boat are a prime target. Fraudsters know how tough it can be to find affordable housing as a student, which is what makes this such a profitable scam!

    Bogus landlords may have their own website or advertise on sites like Gumtree or Facebook, or you could even fall into something dodgey just by answering an ad on a local noticeboard.

    Alarm bells should be ringing if they try to convince you to make an upfront deposit either to hold a property or prove financial capability. It's true that early deposits are sometimes essential to students hoping to secure an apartment over the summer, but doing this through an agency will ensure you'll actually have a house (and a landlord!) when you arrive in September.

    Going through your Student Union or University accommodation services can also help, as they will ensure you only contact legitimate landlords.

    If your are an international student and need to make a payment in advance, never make a transfer using services such as Western Union and always ask for a UK address, post code and phone number for the company (and look them up!).

    Find out how these students were ripped off by this shady landlord's Jumanji horror home rental!
  9. Door-to-door scammers

    fake door canvassersWe all detest having people come knock on our door and disturb your GBBO marathon – whether their looking for cash, or even just a signature.

    But the thing to watch out for is that scammers who go for the door-knocking method are counting on the fact you'll maybe feel a bit awkward, or so desperate to get rid of them so you can get back to watching telly that you'll donate a few quid or sign your name up so they'll leave you in peace.

    However, once they have your name, maybe your phone number and address too, they can use these details frivolously.

    Obviously, there are lots of well-intentioned door canvassers out there, too. Just make sure you look for official ID and branded clothing before you make any decisions.

  10. “Free” trials

    Free Trial

    Everyone loves a bargain, particularly a freebie! But take care when signing up for free trials offered online, as often you'll be committing yourself to payment at a later date that you can't get out of.

    While many legitimate sites (such as Amazon, Audible and Spotify) do offer a free taster of their services, some scams make it almost impossible to opt out once you've signed up.

    You'll often have to provide payment details in order to access the free trial, and this can result in them taking cash from your account as soon as the trial is up – so make sure you always read the fine print before signing up!

    Love freebies as much as we do? Check out our curated list of the best freebies available online.

Hopefully you're now clued up on some of the most common money scams to watch out for.

Have you been victim of a money scam? Get in touch – we want to hear about it.

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