University students warned against identity fraud

Credit Cards. Pic: CCNetPay

Students are particularly likely to be scammed because of their reliance on social networking sites.  That was the message from the Metropolitan Police at a meeting yesterday (Wednesday).

Students are considered to be particularly vulnerable to identity fraud and they are the main focus of the Metropolitan Police response to this year’s National Identity Fraud Prevention Week campaign.

Research commissioned for the Met, showed that over four million people in the UK have been victims of identity fraud. The average cost to the victims was £1,190.

David Chernik, Communication Expert and Security Consultant, explained to the meeting that there has been a rise in organised fraud. He said: “There has been a vast increase in organisations specifically set up to take money.”

Fraudulent crime is also expected to increase because of the current economic climate, with more people turning to illegal methods to make money.

Students are targeted because they are generally more willing to openly share information on social networks and the Internet in general. They are also not are not as well informed about how fraud operates.

Will Coldwell, 22, MA Journalism Student at Goldsmiths University was a victim of credit fraud. He said: “Someone hacked into my PayPal account and transferred £180 into their own account. Luckily, I checked my account so I called PayPal immediately who blocked the transaction before the money had left my account.”

He continued: “You should always keep an eye on your account details.”

Police Constable Simon Cham, from the Economic and Specialist Crime Operational Command Unit (OCU), said: “Students are more likely to be loose with their details. They are quite free and easy on the web and are more likely to use the Internet than the older generation, so are more likely to be targeted and become victims of fraud.”

“Everything that makes you a student, the fact that you are in temporary accommodation, the fact that you are excited about being at university and away from that closeted home environment. You’re excited about being more grown-up than you were before, you’re more likely to put yourself in a situation that you wouldn’t if you had years of experience.”

Chernick said: “If we know the people who are vulnerable, we can show them how the bad guys do their tricks.”

The Met has issued guidelines on how to prevent being a victim of identity fraud. The seven key messages were:

  • Your ID is as valuable as cash. If stolen it could cost money and time
  • Do not put too much personal information on social networking sites and be very cautious how you use your details online
  • Never give your PIN to anyone
  • Only use trusted and secure websites. Do not enter any personal information on websites that do appear trustworthy
  • Use strong passwords and PINs for everything
  • File or shred bank statements and bills.
  • Be aware that having your ID stolen can have long-term consequences. Your credit may be adversely affected, which may stop you from buying or renting a home and applying for credit cards or loans

Constable Mike Hurst, from the Economic and Specialist Crime OCU, added: “Be very careful about sharing information. Even if you’re joining clubs and societies, when you’re signing up, do these people really need this information? Do they need to know your date of birth? Think about what they might use that information for.”

During his talk, Hurst also highlighted the importance of verifying a card by Visa, as this is an added security measure.

Goldsmiths also recognises that students are a group vulnerable to crime. The university’s Welfare Officer, Manoj Kerai, is in the process of organising an event to raise awareness of security and safety among students. Details regarding the event are yet to be disclosed.


By: Hannah Osborne and Sarah Whitehead

Leave a Reply