Some criminals specifically target international students, telephoning them and pretending to be from a legitimate organisation (such as the UK Home Office, an education agent or even UKCISA). They demand money (calling it a “fine” for a non-existent immigration problem), and claim that if you do not pay them quickly, there will be damaging consequences (for example, deportation or cancelling your visa).
Is it a fraud?
You can help protect yourself by being aware of the common features of these fraudulent calls (‘scams’).
- The caller may appear to be genuine and convincing, because they have some limited information about you (for example, your passport number, as well as your telephone number and name).
- The caller may give you their name and telephone number, to try to convince you they are genuine.
- They may say that there is a serious problem with your immigration status, and that you need to pay a fine, or send a payment.
- The payment is, most commonly, demanded to be made via Western Union, PayPal or iTunes as soon as possible, supposedly to prevent further action or investigation by the UK Home Office.
- The caller will speak in dramatic terms, perhaps talking about deportation or cancelling your visa. This is a common fraudster’s technique, to make you panic and become pressurised into paying the fake fine.
How to respond
If you receive such a call (or a similar contact by any other means, for example email or text) we advise as follows:
- Do not give the caller/sender any personal information, and do not confirm that any information they have is correct.
- Do not make any payment. The Home Office does not issue financial penalties. Nor does UKCISA.
- You may wish to tell the caller/sender that you know about the fraudulent contact they are making, and that you will be reporting it to the police and the Home Office. Or you may simply wish to hang up.
- Report the incident to the International Student Advisory Team at email@example.com and the Adviser can help you report the fraud to the police and to the Home Office if you wish.
- If you wish, you can report the matter online to Action Fraud.
- You can also help other potential victims of this fraud by adding details of your experience to a discussion about this specific fraud on the Who Calls Me website.