The Student Loans Company (SLC) is warning students to be on their guard for phishing and fraudulent scams as the company is preparing to pay over £2 billion in maintenance funding to more than 1 million students throughout September. As payments make their way to students, the company is warning Freshers and returning students not to be tricked into disclosing personal details via email or clicking on links in emails or text messages from senders they don’t recognise, as they could be installing malware.

Fraudsters can target students with bogus emails and SMS around the three loan payment dates in September, January and April each year. In the last two academic years alone, SLC’s dedicated Customer Compliance teams have prevented £850,000 from being phished from students’ loans. The expert teams have a range of methods and fraud analytics to stop scammers in their tracks, but students need to know that they are the best and first line of defence.

Spotting a phishing or scam email, SMS or any type of fraudulent communication isn’t always easy, but the Student Loans Company has some fraud facts to help:

  • Keep an eye out for any emails, phone calls or SMS messages you think are suspicious, especially around the time you’re expecting a payment.

  • Scam emails are often sent in bulk and are unlikely to contain both your first and last name; they commonly start, ‘Dear Student’ so be on guard if you see one like this.

  • Check the quality of the communication – misspelling, poor punctuation and bad grammar are often tell-tale signs of phishing.

  • ‘Failure to respond in 24 hours will result in your account being closed’ – these types of messages are designed to convey a sense of urgency to prompt a quick response.

  • Think before you click. If you receive an email or SMS that contains a link that you’re not sure of then try hovering over to check that it goes where it’s supposed to. If you’re still in any doubt don’t risk it, always go direct to the source rather than clicking on a potentially dangerous link.

  • Potential scammers can use a variety of methods to try get students to pay money or share their personal details, including the use of fraudulent phone calls, social posts and direct messaging on digital platforms. If you are suspicious of being contacted, always use official phone numbers, your online account and official communication channels to verify the contact you received is genuine.
  • Check out our guide to identifying a phishing scam at www.gov.uk/guidance/phishing-scams-how-you-can-avoid-them

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Bernice McNaught, Executive Director, Repayments and Customer Compliance at the Student Loans Company, said:

“We work hard to help our customers stay safe, but fraudsters are persistent and will try to target them and their parents with emails and texts requesting personal details to access their accounts.

“We’re reminding all students to be vigilant for online scams and phishing attempts as the new academic year gets underway this September. Although things may be a bit different for some freshers this year, we want them to know that scammers are still working to steal their funding.

“Students can keep their account safe by following our simple tips and anyone who receives a suspicious email or SMS should send it to phishing@slc.co.uk. SLC can investigate the site and ensure it is shut down, to help protect other students.”

The company is also urging students to be mindful of the information that they share about themselves on social media, and elsewhere online, to help guard against identity theft. Identity theft happens when fraudsters access enough information about a person’s identity, such as their name, date of birth, customer reference number, course information or their current or previous addresses to impersonate them online and over the phone. One method that identity thieves will use is to impersonate an individual to try to access their account and change their bank details to divert payments to an account of their own.

Customers in England should be aware that whenever their bank details are changed, they will receive an SMS from Student Finance England (SFE) to confirm the change. If a customer hasn’t changed their details but receives a message, they should log into their online account to review their information and also get in contact using an official telephone number as they could be the victim of identity theft and future payments may be blocked if they don’t. Customers should keep their contact details up to date to ensure they never miss important information by logging into their online account at https://www.gov.uk/student-finance-register-login

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    Fraud Facts for Freshers

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