A student has lost £72k in a scam targeting the University of Manchester
The Students’ Union has issued a warning
Phone scammers are targeting international students at the University of Manchester, accusing them of sending illegal items abroad, costing one student £72,000.
The scammers are armed with software that disguises their phone numbers. They have been contacting UoM students and claiming to be police officers from Shanghai.
Students are accused of sending “illegal products” overseas, most often China, and threatened with deportation and a “late fee notice” or “10 year [travel] ban” unless they comply.
The victims are then asked to provide bank details and transfer thousands of pounds to the scammers in order to prove their innocence to the alleged police officers.
The phone calls are “loaded with terror inspiring threats” as the scammers accuse the students of being non-cooperative and threatening “them with a greater risk of impending deportation and higher charges”, forcing them to coerce.
Indian and Chinese students have been targeted the most by this scam, many losing thousands of pounds, with the worst case being a student from India who lost £72,000 according to the police.
The University of Manchester Students' Union has released a statement warning international students at the uni to be cautious.
The SU warning states: "The Home Office will never ring you and ask you to disclose your personal information or demand you to pay a charge.
"If you are an international student subject to this situation, please do not share any personal information including your passport, visa, bank details and home address."
Their advice as to what to do if you have been affected is as follows:
"Report this issue to the UK Action Fraud/ your Students' Union Advice service/your University International student advice service. We strongly advice you to report this issue as intimidation and fraud is a crime."
They then addressed the action they will take, stating:
"The Indian High Commission and the Chinese Embassy are already aware of this issue. UMSU will contact the high street banks with whom most international students have their accounts to make them aware of this issue and to receive any bank-specific advice for victims of this scam."
One student who lost over £70,000 was contacted by people who said they worked for the police in Shanghai and that they had sent illegal items to China recently. The student denied the claims.
Whilst on the phone they later were transferred to a "higher ranking officer" who then said they had been involved in an international crime and had money in their accounts that related to that. For the student to prove their legitimacy they were asked to provide them with their bank details and transfer £30,000 to them.
The same person then contacted them over the following days and they were asked to transfer £31,000 more then further payments that totalled up at £11,000, incurring a net loss of £72,000.
Riddi Visu, the diversity officer at the University of Manchester SU has expressed her outrage at these events, saying "This urgently needs to stop as more and more Indian and Chinese students are losing thousands of pounds in this scam and are completely shattered by this."
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Legitimate Home Office officials will never contact individuals to demand payment over the phone for visa fees or fines." And then urged “Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of fraud should contact the police.”