‘Too good to be true’: students mugged off in mobile phone scam
Advertised as ‘this isn’t some sort of shifty deal’, mobile phone scam turns out to be some sort of shifty deal
Students are being duped for thousands of pounds in a mobile phone pyramid scheme that has targeted dozens of universities.
Tempted by the opportunity to earn easy money, students have fallen foul of mobile phone scams that have left some up to four grand in debt.
Mobile phone fraudsters approach students offering them cash in exchange for contract handsets in their own names.
The operation then sells on the phone to buyers abroad, or as it is rumoured, to law and accountancy firms that want cheap, short term phone contracts for their grad schemers.
Students then try to get their friends to sell handsets in their names for fast cash.
A student who sold contract phones to a company now under investigation explained how he tried to entice his peers into doing the same.
“It was just at the beginning of my second year. Like any student you always perk up at the idea of earning some easy cash.
“A friend of mine put me in touch with an old schoolmate who knew about how to make instant money by selling on phone contracts.
“My mate was already earning so we thought it was legit. Over the course of two years, we made a cut of £50 per handset we sent on, and sometimes we earned a reward of £100 for having a contract open six months.
“The company we sent the phones to would generally pay our monthly contract on time. The money would come in the day before the direct debit to O2 was due, always from a different name.
“We would then phone up our mates and other students and read them a pitch to get them involved.”
Under UK law up to six phone contracts can be taken out in one name for personal reasons, but businesses can list up to 40. The scheme encouraged students to register their own companies to take out more contracts.
The company, which The Tab cannot name for legal reasons, carried on the scheme until earlier this month when police arrested 23 people in connection to an investigation into fraud.
The student said: “That’s where people have really started to lose a lot of money. Contracts have been cancelled and we’ve been left out of pocket by hundreds or even thousands of pounds.”
With contracts terminated, students have been forced to pay a ‘buy-out’ fee to phone companies for the cancelled months.
But with multiple contracts under their names, some students now face paying £4000 to buy their way out.
He added: “I woke up one morning to find a phone company took £800 out of my account for a cancelled contract. I was able to file an indemnity charge to my bank and I was refunded the money, but others haven’t been so lucky.”Cops said: “This is a complex operation which is still in its early stages and involves a large-scale financial investigation.
“From the available evidence, the emerging picture shows the potential for a multi-million pound fraud which has already impacted over 350 students from a dozen UK universities and these numbers are expected to rise.
“We are committed to ensuring that those engaged in fraudulent activity do not escape justice.”
The National Mobile Phone Crime Unit warned students to be aware of mobile phone fraud and how to protect yourself if you’ve been affected.